Daniel B.
Boulder, CO
Joined July 2016
I like to camp, ski, backcountry, and road trip as much as I can. Usually it's w my dog, Sirius Black. Check out SiriusCamper.com for more
Ranger Review: Morsel Spork XL at CanyonSide Campground

Campground Review

This campground is located in the Poudre Canyon area of Colorado. This is a private, 420-friendly campground. While many will be drawn to that allure, there is a lot of other features this campground offers that makes it a lovely place to stay. There’s communal fire pits, a jungle gym for kids, and hiking trails into and up the Poudre Canyon. It’s also a good place to bunk if you like to fish, with access into the rivers just across the road and so many other spots just a short drive away. Across the road is a general store for any last-minute camping supplies, munchies, booze, and ice. There’s also the Poudre Canyon Grille – a tiny, well-kept trailer serving up burgers, fries, and other fast food sandwiches. Near the office, there’s a large covered patio that has a cell and WiFi booster and in the summertime is a lounge area with a TV. There are two areas that have a bathroom with shower – both single use. When there are nearby music festivals, Canyonside has been known to shuttle festival goers to and from areas of greater access to help you enjoy the show. Speaking of shows, there are sometimes laser light shows where the hosts reflect their displays off the rocky canyon walls, and up the canyon there is also a small ampitheatre.

To learn more about what may be going on near the time of your stay, just call the campground. Which is also what I suggest you do before you book, especially if you’re interested in renting one of their really cool themed cabins (there’s a few, are different sizes, and each have a unique décor theme and were all incredibly clean). There are a few factors like the day of the week, amount of people, and amount of dogs you have that will affect your nightly rate. Ask about the dog policy when you call too, as not all sites allow for pets – like the tent sites – and there is a pet waiver that should be read.

One thing I noticed that was neat for tent dwellers was that one area of the tent sites (there are two sent site locations on either side of the park) had a hammock or swing chair and access to water to do dishes (there is also communal dishware) in addition to your typical flat plot, fire pit, and picnic table. There is also poured concrete sites for RVs with electric and water hookups, but I don’t remember seeing a dump station.

Not sure you want to go all the way in on a cabin but don’t want a tent site and you don’t own an RV? That’s OK as there’s also a pop up trailer on site that can be rented as a “glamping” option. It was a pretty neat little place, but due to the size and chance of trapping pet dander, dogs aren’t allowed in there either.

The hosts are very accommodating and want to help you enjoy your stay. They are approachable and can point you to resources to help you make your stay a 420-featured one, if that’s your thing. I understand they’re looking to add more tent sites and shaded areas and continue to tweak their internet to help it cover more of the grounds. I look forward to returning to see how the place evolves. I do like that there’s so many ways the hosts are there to accommodate you, and one thing that I would love to hear about is that they’ve added drinkable water access. Water is there for you but bring your own drinking water on site.

I want to give this place a 5 out of 5 because of how nice the hosts are, how well kept the grounds are, how many camping options there are, and how many activity options you have, but it gets a 4 out of 5 from me because of the water access, pet restrictions, and add-on fees (pet, extra guest), plus possible fines for any ‘dog infractions’. If you plan your trip ahead, you will have a great time here and really enjoy the atmosphere. 

Ranger Review

As part of the Dyrt Ranger program I am given camping gear to test from time to time, and today I was reviewing a new kind of spork, the Morsel Spork XL. This company makes 3 kinds: The regular sized spork, then the XL, and a spoon XL. I have the morsel XL spork. No better place to review a munchie-curing tool like a 420-friendly campground! I’ve used a lot of sporks over time, and there were three things about this one that I really liked. 

  • it is long. At first I was like, “Why do I want a spork this big?” until I started using it with my rehydrated meals. I eat those right out of the bag and when you get near the bottom, with other sporks being shorter your hand starts picking up the juices/sauces from the dish when you start to really dig deep into the bag. This spork kept the pasta sauce on the food and away from my hands. 
  • It had a flat edge end on the spoon side. I’ve seen this feature before and it’s an important one because it helps you dig down into the bottom of those bag meals better than a rounded spoon. May not seem like a big deal, but when you’re backpacking and those foods are your fuel, every morsel (see what I did there?) of food counts and a utensil that’s doing a better job than another is the one I’ll want to pack. 
  • The rubberized outer coating. This creates a spatula-like effect and – again – helps with getting the most food on your spork, but also now has an argument as to why it could be used when cooking. I wouldn’t want a plastic spork stirring my eggs in case that thing melts into my food, but I’ve been using this morsel one on the stove top to mix simple meals and it does the job better than my JetBoil folding spatula because its rubberized and not as flimsy. 

These sporks are nowhere near the lightest sporks on the market, but their added weight gives them more durability. They aren’t indestructible, but they won’t snap when they get shoved in your pack either. It is technically also a knife because of the ribbed edges of the fork, but I didn’t have a lot of success cutting with this. I love how it’s dishwasher safe and BPA free! Their versatility for camping makes them a better all-around solution for satisfying your hunger than what you’re using now. 4.75/5 because of the whole knife thing not really working super great.

Ranger Review: GCI Outdoors Sunshade Backpack Chair at Spindrift Mntn Vista

Campground Review

This cozy bunkhouse cabin is a little off the beaten bath, but well worth the drive. It has a lot to offer for such a little place. Unless the cows are out grazing and having some conversations, this place is really quiet. I enjoyed being able to hike around the property – of which there is 76 acres – and soak in the clean air of Livermore, CO, which is adjacent to part of the Arapahoe National Forest. This place also offers fantastic star gazing opportunities. If you are a fan of seeing the milky way overhead, bring your camera or your telescope and enjoy the starscape! It is a bit bumpy (4WD not required) for the last 4.5 miles towards camp, so it’s best to drive there during daylight hours, which I would recommend anyway because the scenery is beautiful along the way. There’s a firepit and wood provided, as well as a few other amenities, should you need them. Upon checking in with the host, you’ll have the opportunity to use the bathroom, and once at the cabin, there’s a bucket toilet should you need it during your stay. The place comes with a twin size mattress in the upstairs bunk, but enough floor space for an inflatable queen – perhaps even king. I slept with my backpacking pad on top of the twin and was very comfortable. You can stand upright in the upstairs bunk area if you’re 5’10 or less.  I took one of the two camping chairs provided up there and watched the sunset through the window, then in the morning did some reading while I looked out over the valley. I really enjoyed just looking up at the stars with the fire crackling next to me. There are some winds that sweep through the area and can be strong enough to warrant a long sleeve shirt for any hikes you take on. I stayed here in early June and there weren’t any mosquitoes (maybe because of the wind?) but there were flies. Not many. More just the curious occasional visitor to the cabin. The main floor of the cabin is about 25% larger and you could put another mattress there to have a decent sleeping arrangement for 4. The place comes with a gas powered heater, but the place is also insulated, and I had no issues staying warm. There’s also a nice size table to prep food or keep your belongings. There’s a few shelves and a bookcase for storage too, and I would love to see some hooks to hang clothing, etc. If you forgot lanterns, it’s alright as there’s a few lights to help you read in bed or keep the place illuminated. Really enjoyed the stay, host was great and friendly. Looks like there's a lot of land here so I wouldn't be surprised if during the summer you saw some other groups spread over the land. 

Ranger Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get product to test from time to time, and over the last few weeks I have been testing out the Sunshade Backpacking Beach Chairs from GCI Outdoors.

  • You can watch the video review below

I am really enjoying them! I was looking for a good quality chair that would provide some sun protection. There’s times when I’m at the beach or at a campground and I don’t have any shade, so being able to have a chair with a retractable visor with UPF 50 protection is a huge benefit. It also has four different recline positions, a headrest, a cup holder, a storage compartment, and a way to transport it as a “backpack”. That’s a lot of features from a lounge chair! I like how you can use the sun shade when you are using it as a backpack too, so it can protect you from rays even when you’re transporting it. It’s not a heavy chair either, and it packs away in a fold-up design so it doesn’t take up much of a footprint in a car when you’re packing it for your next adventure. I wouldn’t mind it if it came with 2 cup holders, but I do like the storage area being big enough for the essentials so that if you were just looking to do a day excursion for some R&R you may have enough space to leave a second bag at home. I found it really easy to adjust the chair to the right recline angle, and the armrest locks the position securely, so I can lean back and not worry about the backrest buckling under my weight. This chair is great for digging into the sand and helping you relax at the beach and is sturdy enough to move around a campfire and deal with the rocks and twig debris as you anchor yourself in for a good smore roasting. The sunshade folds away really easily when you don’t want to use it, and has a bit of resistance to it as you adjust it above your head, so whatever position you find works best will stay put in a gusty crosswind. At its upmost seating position, you’re not sitting as high off the ground as more conventional camping chairs, but this is a recliner so it does a great job of cradling you back into the seat and backrest to get you comfortable.

Ranger Review: Body Glove 3T Hero Water Shoe & PFD at Area One Campground

Campground Review

This campground isn't too far from I-80 and was a great spot to stop during a hot summer day during a road trip. While Nebraska can't do much about the 90+ temps, they sure do make their campgrounds fun to be around when there's water involved.

This place is located on Branched Oak Lake, which has some beachfront. The lake is plenty big for any boat, and what people like to do is reserve spots by the water, drive around to a nearby boat loading area, then drive their boat back to the campsite and anchor it just off shore.

There were a lot of people swimming, paddle boarding, and lazying in the water. There are picnic and day use areas. This place was also ADA friendly, equipped with coin operated showers (has change machines for $1 and $5 bills). There were hike in camp spots, electrical sites, RV sites, and LOTS of them. No matter the type of site you had, you were packed close together.

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get product to test from time to time, and over the last few weeks I have been testing out the Body Glove 3T Hero Water Shoe and PFD.

  • You can watch a video review below

These water shoes have been an excellent addition to my water activities. I have been paddle boarding with them, canoeing, wading in branchy, heavy sand waters while I do work on a dock, and hiking on forest paths during portages. No matter the conditions, my feet are wet but comfortable, and feeling secure both with the fit and it’s grippy bottom. It has a comfortable inner material, vents on the side of the shoe to let loads of water out and keep your feet breathing, and a slip-in fit with some elastic.

The name 3T designates the shoe has a 3-Toe system. This does take some getting used to, and can take a little longer to get into them over a typical slip in shoe. It took me about three times wearing them to feel more used to the fit and comfort.

The grip on the bottom is great. Very durable and has a lot of flexion. This makes this shoe more like a well designed water sneaker. So, leave the other pair of shoes for the terrain between the car and the water at home! I have been treading over gravel, concrete, forest, and rocky hillsides and I don’t see much treadwear.

The PFD is hard to say much about other than it works as designed. I got the M-L and it was a little snug for me, so I would order a size up from that if you’re over 170 lbs. It is very easy to get in and out of with the easy latch buckles and the thick, well stitched zipper. I have a maniac of a step dad when he pilots the motorboat when we go tubing, so it’s only a matter of time before we are thrown off. This kept me alive during the 25mph launch off the wake into the deep.

Ranger Review: ICEMULE Pro XL Backpack Cooler at Eden Springs Park Camp

Campground Review

This campground is very unique. Whether it is the late 1800s, early 1900s buildings on site, or the rumor that this place is haunted, you’re going to have some kind of fun. You can walk around the campground and check out the restoration on these early buildings (and a flower bed shaped like a battle ship), take a train ride with the kids around part of the grounds, and hang out in a large beer garden area and get mesmerized by a fountain.

This place can accommodate a lot of people and a lot of different options. The RV sites are furthest from the amenities, but also the most shaded. There are smaller “amish cabins” for rent that have A/C, tent sites with electrical hook ups, and larger full-scale cabins that look to sleep 6+ comfortably. It’s a place close to the I-94 interstate, so it’s also convenient for road trippers. It was hard, but I could faintly hear the highway. Or maybe that was the ghosts!

There is play equipment and toys for kids, and this place is very well maintained. The landscapers and restoration artists are doing good work. The bathrooms were clean, and showers were hot. I liked that there was a separate area for dish washing – and that it was even provided!

They also have WiFi, but I wasn’t surprised it was pretty spotty. I had better cell coverage in my tent spot. I imagine by the office (or wherever the router is, maybe closer to the full timers in their RVs?) it is better. While I loved how the campground had a lot of dog baggie stations to help keep the place poop-free, I was really bummed to learn there was a $5 pet fee with this reservation. The $25 for the tent site seemed pricey enough, and it’s the first time I’ve encountered this fee while camping.

There’s a lot of interesting history here. It was a cult at one time, there used to be a vegan restaurant and an ice cream parlor, and there was a hotel here at one point as well. What I liked about it was you could walk around the campgrounds and learn about it from the signage. 

Product Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time – and today I am testing the ICEMULE Pro XL Backpack Cooler

  • You can check out a video review below.

This is one amazing cooler for all the right reasons. First, and most importantly, it keeps things cold. I had this thing filled with 30 pounds of beer and ice and left it in out on a dock by the water, in the sun, for a day. I put it next to another transport-friendly cooler. There was still so much ice left over in the ICEMULE and the other cooler I used was only water. 36 hours later, there was still ice.

Secondly, it’s a backpack, and it is great at that too. The backpack straps are cushioned and come with a sternum strap for load dispersion – two things that were greatly appreciated when this thing had 30 pounds of beer + ice in it. There is also some padding for against your back that is a breathable mesh, to keep you cooler for longer while you’re lugging (mule-ing?) this thing around.

It has a roll down seal, very much the same as waterproof sacks, and this is very much waterproof. It floats in water, so I had no concerns when I went kayaking with this. I strapped it into the boat, paddled to an island, hiked to a spot with a view, and cracked a few brews, had a sandwich, and watched the day pass by.

I do like that there is some flexible bungee webbing on the outside front so I can stash something like a jacket or a pair of shoes or something. I can lash things to the top where it clips and seals, but I would have appreciated some more pockets. Thing is, this cooler packs away very small for it’s 33L size, and a pocket would – I guess – prevent it from being so travel-friendly. My solution was to pack a smaller waterproof bag inside it and that way I could still transport all my things in one bag. This proved useful when I wanted to keep the sandwiches from getting wet from the ice in the cooler.

It also has an integrated valve that lets air in and out in this layer of the bag nestled between its durable outside protective layer and its inner cooler material. Yes, this definitely helps with the packability I was just mentioning, as you can let a lot of air out to compress it, but it also aids in the cooling effect of your stuff. When you load this up with ice and your whatevers, if you let air in, then seal it, it will keep the air in the bag and that air will help keep the cooler colder for longer while the ice melts off. Not a lot of backpack coolers have a valve system.

This bag is the Pro XL size. 33L is a big bag. They make some other sizes, and other models that come with less or more features (like outside pockets) so as a brand, ICEMULE has you covered. There are a few companies out there doing backpack coolers now, but I haven’t seen a better value out there. These are a great price considering their performance. I love how cold things were staying and how tough the bag held up through the woods. I am definitely bringing ice cream with me the next time I go hiking.

Pros

  • It floats in water
  • Contents stay cold 24-36 hours later
  • Adjustable shoulder and sternum straps help handle heavy loads
  • Built-in side valve for better packing and cooling.

Cons

  • Not much external storage/pocket options, but they have other models online with that feature.
Ranger Review: Matador Base Layer Camera Bag at Oregon Trail GC&C

Campground Review

Also known as Sutherland Reservoir North Shore Recreation Area, I found this place in Nebraska not long after a terrible thunderstorm came rolling in along I-80. The golf gods we're with me on this one, because I didn't even know until I got there that there was even a golf course. The storm was bad, but not bad enough from keeping me playing 9 holes the next day!

This place is surprisingly popular given how basic the amenities are. As a golfer, sure, it's a plus there's a course but this place is also on a huge reservoir lake and has a launch point nearby. Lots of people staying here had some sort of boat or jetski for fishing or recreation. As a tent camper my toilet options were two port-o poties on one end of the grounds (it's not a big campground) or a toilet with a sink attached to the golf course clubhouse. No showers. The staff at the place were very nice and even though they were full, they gave me a spot just on the grass somewhere so I could spend the night. It was cheap - only $10 all-in. You can also buy snacks and refreshments from the clubhouse.

The camp spots were tightly packed in and not a lot of space to roam around that wouldn't be on someone's campsite. Best enjoyed it seemed by big groups.

Ranger Review

As a Dyrt Ranger I am given products to test from time to time. I photograph a lot on my adventures with a DLSR and noticed the Matador Base Layer, and a lightweight, protective case for my camera would be GREAT. I was a big fan of the built-in rain fly as well. Matador makes a few products friendly for wet weather and conditions, and this is no exception.

  • Video Test of the Matador base layer in a rainstorm below

The bag is easy to take on and off your camera, and its 'base layer' fabric is very reminiscent of a base layer jacket. It's well stitched so the insulated padding doesn't clump up in one area and keeps it well placed for protection.

Speaking of protection - yes it is a great bag for weather protection (rain,dust). No, it is not the best for high impact situations. It is a light case, and by default of that, it's protection is going to be limited. I wouldn't use this to wrap my DSLR + lens in if I was going to then put the camera in a larger bag and carrying/transport that around, but I would use it in situations where my camera would be out a lot and the impact risk is low.

Proc/Cons

When you need to use the camera, simply unclip the buckle and pull from the bottom. Very easy, very fast. One issue then is now you have a bag in your hand and you want to use your hands to take a photo. It's a little awkward trying to find a pocket big enough to stuff it. if you clip it back to the camera strap, it is awkward to then try and use your camera. You can clip it to a bag, sure, but what if you're not carrying a bag? I don't always and just hike with my camera and a water bottle.

I have enjoyed using this on day hikes in Colorado in Rocky Mountain National Park on easy trails, but would be worried about this as it swung from my neck/shoulder and then slipped on some trail and as I regain my balance (hopefully), it's swinging from my neck and knocks into some side wall or rock/tree. When you hold it in your hands you can tell it is super well made immediately, but I do wish the material was a bit thicker.

Version 2.0?

In a future iteration, I would love to see a camera sling bag made out of the same materials and buckle + rain fly system. Just a little thicker for more padded protection for higher impacts. Also, an integrated shoulder sling strap. On that strap there could even be a hidden pocket or inlet to clip camera lens covers to or something multi-purpose, like a stash cloth to wipe off lenses. Your NanoDry fabrics are pretty cool, perhaps some integration there would lead people to want to test out other products if they liked the base layer, like the towels or teardrop bags. That all-in one bag would still be lightweight and still have water/dust protection, but could then stay slung over my shoulder, leaving me hands- free for taking shots.

Ranger Review: Matador NanoDry Shower Towel & FlatPak Toiletry Bottle @ SRA

Campground Review

I stayed in this Louisville Rec area a few nights, moving around to three different areas of this HUGE campground are nestled in Nebraska. My plan was to spend a few days taking advantage of the many amenities and activity options this area appeared to have, and I since this is a popular destination option many are considering, I sought to provide a review of the grounds from the perspective of someone who is considering staying in the west, central, or east area of the grounds. This review is for the east area.

General Info on this overall campground

This is a state-funded park, so non-Nebraska plated cars have an additional fee. A HUGE campground with around 250 total sites, with options ranging from walk-in camping tent-only sites to RV areas. There is a 3 decent-size lakes spread evenly across the grounds. Near the central lake ("Lake 2") there is a small shop which has a market where basic kick knacks and firewood are available. This is also where you can rent boats like canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards for hrs, half and daily rates. There is a trail in the woods running parallel to the North Platte River. The path is in a heavily wooded area, so no lakeside views, just a nice, quiet hike with the very occasional hummm of a mosquito. There is a swim area along the beach of Lake 2. There is canoe access at the far west side of the park. In summer, it was common to see people wading across the river as it was neither a fast moving current nor deep. This is a Rec area, so day use is also an option. There are numerous locations for picnics, including Grills, and for fishing in the lakes from some roof-covered docks. Coin-operated showers (takes quarters, change machines take $1 and $5 bills) and full-service, ADA-friendly bathrooms scatter the park as well. There is a play area in the center which has a basic jungle gym. Each site has at least a picnic table and a fire pit. All tent sites are park and walk. If you want to have your car next to your picnic table, you need a padded spot. Each area of the park has these options, as well as electrical, then RV. Most sites are reservable and there are some allocated for first come, first serve. Gates will close at 10pm so make sure your road trip stops before they do. Also, packing earplugs is a must, but it won't completely help you. There is a train that goes very near the grounds - the track basically borders the south side of the campgrounds - and it needs to use its horn while passing through, which happens A LOT.

Central location-specific Info

I personally this this area has the best spots on the grounds. I was loving campsite 11. I had a river-side view to a nice sunset and sat at my picnic table and watched fireworks go off on the other side of the river (4th of July long weekend). These sites are also furthest from the train, which isn't really helping all too much because it's loud anyway, but you're also away from all the noise of the main rec area and central market. Less kids in this area for that reason as well.

Ranger Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I am sometimes given products to test and this time I am testing the FlatPak Toiletry Bottle and the NanoDry Shower Towel (large).

The NanoDry Shower Towel

I have other travel towels, but nothing this size that is this light, this packable, and this quick drying. It's a total keeper. Well, I actually forgot it at a different campground a few days later, but it's something I am happy to pay to replace. I would wake up, have a shower, lay out the towel on the picnic table, and 10 min later it was dry. Speaking of really cool, let me take a sec to talk about the carry case. It's this silicone thing that comes with a carabiner, so I can hook it outside my bag if it's still wet to keep it away from other stuff but also let it air dry a bit.

Overall Positives

  • Towel has a loop near the middle to hang in shower stalls or hang dry
  • Very absorbent fabric. 2.3x it's own weight in water, to be exact. I didn't think the large size (47 x 24 inches, 142 grams) was going to be enough material to dry me after a soak, but it was.
  • NanoDry fabric dries soooo fast.
  • Antimicrobial coating so there's no mildew build up
  • Silicone case clips to anything and keeps it away from your other items in case it's not quite dry

Overall Negatives

  • I forgot it at a campground a few days later

The FlatPak Toiletry Bottle

I decided to get a few of these guys to solve a few pain points. Usually 'travel size' anything is a little pricier compared to the 'economy size' option, so now I just leave bigger bottles of things like shampoo at home and fill up one of these. Secondly, it's a case that's crazy light so you're pretty much taking whatever liquids, gels, and pastes you use with you with as little added weight possible. It's a travel accessory, so it should be TSA approved, and it is.

Overall Positives

  • Snap loop makes it easy to attach these to toiletry and day use bags for outdoor adventures, weekend trips, or a gym session.
  • The screw top opening is easy to remove and wide enough to make it easy to fill
  • There's a place to write a note about the contents of the bag so you don't wind up brushing your teeth with hand lotion.
  • It's waterproof, so go ahead and use it in the shower

Overall Negatives

  • Because of it's compact size and weight design, it's going to be near impossible to clean out completely after use, so get enough for each category of your liquids, gels, and pastes. Sure, one sunscreen vs another is totally reasonable when it comes time for a refill, so all I'm saying is get the 3 pack because you'll like these things and you'll want one for your toothpaste, another for sunscreen, one for shampoo, another for conditioner, maybe you use shower gel, and maybe everyone else you camp with is going to need them now too.
  • I didn't buy enough
  • Only comes in 1 color
Ranger Review: Midland X-Talker T51VP3 Radios at Louisville Lakes SRA

Campground Review

I stayed in this Louisville Rec area a few nights, moving around to three different areas of this HUGE campground are nestled in Nebraska. My plan was to spend a few days taking advantage of the many amenities and activity options this area appeared to have, and I since this is a popular destination option many are considering, I sought to provide a review of the grounds from the perspective of someone who is considering staying in the west, central, or east area of the grounds. This review is for the west area.

General Info on this overall campground

This is a state-funded park, so non-Nebraska plated cars have an additional fee. A HUGE campground with around 250 total sites, with options ranging from walk-in camping tent-only sites to RV areas. There is a 3 decent-size lakes spread evenly across the grounds. Near the central lake ("Lake 2") there is a small shop which has a market where basic kick knacks and firewood are available. This is also where you can rent boats like canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards for hrs, half and daily rates. There is a trail in the woods running parallel to the North Platte River. The path is in a heavily wooded area, so no lakeside views, just a nice, quiet hike with the very occasional hummm of a mosquito. There is a swim area along the beach of Lake 2. There is canoe access at the far west side of the park. In summer, it was common to see people wading across the river as it was neither a fast moving current nor deep. This is a Rec area, so day use is also an option. There are numerous locations for picnics, including Grills, and for fishing in the lakes from some roof-covered docks. Coin-operated showers (takes quarters, change machines take $1 and $5 bills) and full-service, ADA-friendly bathrooms scatter the park as well. There is a play area in the center which has a basic jungle gym. Each site has at least a picnic table and a fire pit. All tent sites are park and walk. If you want to have your car next to your picnic table, you need a padded spot. Each area of the park has these options, as well as electrical, then RV. Most sites are reservable and there are some allocated for first come, first serve. Gates will close at 10pm so make sure your road trip stops before they do. Also, packing earplugs is a must, but it won't completely help you. There is a train that goes very near the grounds - the track basically borders the south side of the campgrounds - and it needs to use its horn while passing through, which happens A LOT.

Central location-specific Info

The harsh part of being located here is if you are looking for any kind of spot that accommodates a flat plot, like sites 206 - 236, you are butted up against the train tracks and that train is LOUD! You will have no chance of a solid night's sleep since the train uses its horn very often. I was in campsite 11 another night, literally as far away from the tracks as possible and wore ear plugs and there was no avoiding it - I was waking up at 5am no matter what. This is the place you want to camp if you are tent camping. The reserve sites or tucked away from a lot of the more family-friendly activities, so you'll get some reprieve from that energy, plus can have some spots that are very close to the N Platte river's edge.

Ranger Review

I was given a pair of the Midland X-TALKER TV1P3 Walkie Talkies to test out from Midland. Since they come with a hands-free option with a compatible accessory, I also got a pair of the AVPH3 Surveillance headsets.

These came in handy (pardon the pun) when I was biking with a friend and skiing. By hooking in the headset to the side of the radio it allowed me to leave the radio in the bag, run a wire and clip a little mic with a talk on/off button to my jacket, then put a little earpiece in around my ear that was out of the way of my helmet. This also protected the radio from debris, as water is easy to collect on electronics when skiing and dust when biking.

  • Watch the video review below

These radios aren't big, but they're packed with a lot of features. I personally love the weather scan capability. It locks into the NOAA weather broadcasts to deliver you a forecast. This is very useful while you are on a backpacking trip or in my case doing some kayaking because it helps me plan my routes and assess risk for my activities. They also charge through micro USB if you don't want to pack the included charging cradle (AC powered), so recharging them on the go is pretty simple since you already pack those cables and a portable USB power bank for other electronics.

The 28 mile range is a bit of a stretch (pardon the pun) but this is up to 28 miles. It worked fine for me over some densely forested lakes 2 miles away and even further over open water. I had these up at my cottage in Northern Ontario with me and I was able to get reception on these when I kayaked from one family friend's cottage from ours 8 miles away. It was getting crackly at that point but there is A LOT of interference over that distance so I was shocked they worked at all.

They have 22 channels and 38 privacy codes, so it's easy to create your own network and stay uninterrupted. I also got these working with another pair of radios I had, so they work with other brands. There are some other features, and the product support on their site is great. hey have a reference guide and a user manual to learn how to operate things like the quiet mode - if so inclined.

Overall Pros

  • Weather Alert channel
  • 28 mile range
  • Clips included
  • Clips included, help with Hands-Free option
  • Long battery life
  • 22 channels & 28 privacy codes. Can work with other radio brands.
  • Silent operation

Overall Cons

  • None really. It has so many features so to avoid getting lost in the technical stuff, I recommend downloading the product spec sheet to get the gist. It covers nearly everything. The real techies may want to check out the user manual.
Ranger Review: Wild Zora Foods at A C Nelson Campground

Campground Review

I stayed in this Louisville Rec area a few nights, moving around to three different areas of this HUGE campground are nestled in Nebraska. My plan was to spend a few days taking advantage of the many amenities and activity options this area appeared to have, and I since this is a popular destination option many are considering, I sought to provide a review of the grounds from the perspective of someone who is considering staying in the west, central, or east area of the grounds. This review is for the central area.

General Info on this overall campground

This is a state-funded park, so non-Nebraska plated cars have an additional fee. A HUGE campground with around 250 total sites, with options ranging from walk-in camping tent-only sites to RV areas. There is a 3 decent-size lakes spread evenly across the grounds. Near the central lake ("Lake 2") there is a small shop which has a market where basic kick knacks and firewood are available. This is also where you can rent boats like canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards for hrs, half and daily rates. There is a trail in the woods running parallel to the North Platte River. The path is in a heavily wooded area, so no lakeside views, just a nice, quiet hike with the very occasional hummm of a mosquito. There is a swim area along the beach of Lake 2. There is canoe access at the far west side of the park. In summer, it was common to see people wading across the river as it was neither a fast moving current nor deep. This is a Rec area, so day use is also an option. There are numerous locations for picnics, including Grills, and for fishing in the lakes from some roof-covered docks. Coin-operated showers (takes quarters, change machines take $1 and $5 bills) and full-service, ADA-friendly bathrooms scatter the park as well. There is a play area in the center which has a basic jungle gym. Each site has at least a picnic table and a fire pit. All tent sites are park and walk. If you want to have your car next to your picnic table, you need a padded spot. Each area of the park has these options, as well as electrical, then RV. Most sites are reservable and there are some allocated for first come, first serve. Gates will close at 10pm so make sure your road trip stops before they do. Also, packing earplugs is a must, but it won't completely help you. There is a train that goes very near the grounds - the track basically borders the south side of the campgrounds - and it needs to use its horn while passing through, which happens A LOT.

Central location-specific Info

I would avoid this area if you are tent camping and look to the east/west grounds. The park managers called tent sites 260-267 "bug alley". If there's any rain this area this area is highly susceptible to pooling, which brings out the bugs! There was a storm the night before I arrived and people were being relocated. This area has closest access to the most amenities in the park. The jungle gym is here, as well as the market, and the biggest lake with the beach and swim area.

Ranger Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I am given product to test from time to time. For the better part of 2 weeks I've been snacking on products from Wild Zora. I bought the meat and veggie bar sample pack and some Paleo-Friendly To-Go Meals.

  • You can watch the video review below.

This company specializes in making healthy, allergen-friendly food for the outdoors. I found their meat bars delicious and so far have loved the Caldera Chicken Curry dinner and Butte Cacao Banana breakfast. Really good food!

The freeze dried meals weren't chalky and the ingredients are so healthy. By being paleo-friendly, they are gluten, grain, milk, soy free and shelf stable, and protein-rich. Most are also nut free. These ingredients will raise the cost up to a price above conventional free-dried meals, but the taste is well worth the upgrade.

I found the veggie bars to be delicious as well. I had some while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and some more while just sitting in my car along a road trip. Either way, it was curbing my hunger, gave me an energy boost, and I wasn't left with any digestive issues. I am lactose intolerant and have a tree nut allergy, and these bars are allergen friendly. They contain no added sugar, hormones, antibiotics or chemical additives. Easily compare to price to the tough, nitrate-rich jerky so I HIGHLY recommend this as a healthier alternative.

Overall Pros:

  • Lots of flavor options
  • Everything tasted really good
  • Great ingredients make this brand a healthy, allergy-friendly food option

Overall Cons:

  • None really. Their packaging and menu are being updated with the freeze dried to-go meals so some of the flavors may get discontinued
Ranger Review: Renogy Multi-Functional Solar Backpack at Horsetooth Resevoir

Campground Review

My friends and I live in Boulder and this spot is a nice retreat about 90 minutes away near Fort Collins and is a good place to enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities.

The campground is quite spacious and offers a lot of staying options. RV, car, cabins, tent – all of those kinds of sites are available. They opened a newly renovated information center about a year ago, and it’s a great place to stop in to plan out your activities in the area and make sure you have any questions answered by park ranger staff. You could very well just show up here to camp without much of a plan and after a visit to the center have more than a few ideas. They have maps.

This area has boat ramps, rock climbing nearby, and even some caves to explore. You could find some bike and hike trails too without much effort. We were there as part of a large group, so we rented three cabins near the water. Each cabin comes with a bunk bed and a double. A basic, summer camp-like mattress for each. They also have combined A/C Heater unit. I didn’t see showers here, but there were primitive toilets with TP. I noticed even the basic tent campsites came with a fire pit and picnic table.

We opted for some hikes near the campsite while some others went climbing.

Ranger Review

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I am given product to test from time to time. For the last 2 months I've been testing out the Renogy Multi-Functional Solar Backpack. You can watch the video review here.

This is a 20L backpack with a lot of compartments best suited for those needing a daily activity/commuter bag. If you're looking for a true hiking/backpacking pack with solar panels, I recommend checking out Renogy's stand-alone panels.

How does it work?

The solar panel is slightly larger than a regular piece of paper (11.3" x 9.7") and can be configured to face inward when not in use for protection from abrasions. When in use, it provides a USB port to charge from (max output 1.2A and can charge a phone in 2.5 hrs.

Here's the thing: Renogy recommends you use the set up to charge to a power-bank, rather than directly to devices and I completely agree. This is because even in the best light, directly connected to my phone I was only able to maintain my power level, not improve it. I found out the panel is pretty sensitive because in partially cloudy conditions I could hear my phone beep when it would go on/off charge. Sometimes it would beep at me a few times a minute. With a power bank, you can still charge devices but also build up reserve power so at night you can recharge your electronics.

Who should buy this bag?

Anyone who wants a comfortable day pack with lots of storage options and loves the idea you can grab free energy to recharge your devices. I use it for all my media projects as it carries all my cameras, cables, and tripods plus in compartments so they aren't knocking into each other and the weight stays distributed evenly. Just check out the amount of stuff I put in this thing! It has pockets everywhere, and includes an option to slide this through larger luggage's extendable handles, making it a great carry on bag if you need to travel by a plane. You will need a different bag for long expeditions because you need more than a 20L pack for that, plus this bag lacks chest and hip straps.

Verdict?

If you're in the market for a 15-20L day pack and want something that provides power, buy this. Especially if you're outside a lot. The bag is lasting very well, the panel is going strong even after I spilled beer on it (it's waterproof and obviously it was an accident as I would never waste beer), it's comfortable, and I like how versatile I can configure it for all my stuff. In some social or business settings the solar panel isn't the greatest thing to be showing off, so it's great you can hide that away. Last I checked electricity isn't coming from a magic bean field, and I love how I'm able to go greener now by getting energy for my devices from the sun.

Ranger Review: OOFOS OOahh Sport Slide Sandal at Iceberg Lake

Campground Review:

Unbelievable backcountry reward for the experienced hikers. This is about as much as I can handle in a day: 6 miles in, with a 30lb pack, hiking 3,000 ft elevation gain that starts at 9,200 ft. If you can make it, wow are you in for some outstanding sights. This place is my Colorado oasis. You can fish, explore the wildflowers, and even say hi to thru hikers of the Continental Divide Trail. When you're done enjoying the photos, definitely check out this site to ensure you can handle the hike. I went as far as downloading the hike's GPS coordinates so I would have them on my wayfinding watch. You can't mess around with backcountry hikes - if you're going solo like me, make sure to tell friends about your plans.

Alright with that said, I had an unreal time. I saw a guy hike in an inflatable boat so he could do some fly fishing at a nearby lake, and when I got to the campsite there was a guy with a frickin llama. This guy was my hero.

  1. Figure out how to rent a llama
  2. Use a llama to carry your pack
  3. Win at life

The trail is a leg burner, so allow yourself plenty of time for breaks and to get to your site before daylight runs out. If you've got hiking poles, bring em. You also would be best served to do this at a time when it hasn't rained recently, because the trail is mostly rock and hard packed sloped earth, and would be a lot more slippery when wet. You're going to be tempted to make camp when you get to Heart Lake, and if there's spots, by all means grab em because that place is equally serene plus saves you "the final push from hell" which is the last 400 ft up to the first Iceberg Lake (where I stayed for a little more privacy). No matter where you camp, at some point definitely get up to the 12,115' Iceberg Lakes overlook. You will not be disappointed. Pics or it didn't happen? CHECK EM OUT!!!

When I went, there was a fire ban, so check ahead. Obviously you're not going to hike in wood because of the added weight, and so if there's no fire ban you'll be tempted to use the wood around you to make a fire. I just ask you respect the area - there's not much wood around and most of it is living, and using that is a big no-no. A good alternative is a portable stove for cooking meals and a heat lamp powered by the same type of stove gas for warmth if you have run out of pack space for layers.

Ranger Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. For the last two months I've been wearing the OOFOS OOahh Sport Slide Sandals and boy are they comfortable. Watch the video review here. I started wearing them only at times they were mainly advertised and intended: A recovery sandal to wear after exercise (runners love these). I was wearing them after playing hockey, and as my post-hiking footwear. They're fine in showers and are crazy cushiony because of their arch support and foam material. I wear them all the time now, just because I like the amount of impact absorption these puppies can handle, which saves some stress in my knees and back, and that's always good even when you don't have back problems like me. Get the Project Pink edition ones so $10 of your purchase goes towards breast cancer research. After 2 months of solid use logging around 100 miles over every realistic terrain (loose gavel, pavement, indoors, locker room showers, grass, backcountry campsites, etc. etc.) the tread is finally showing signs of wear down. If they get smelly you can machine wash them (still haven't needed to) and the OOfoam has some moisture and bacteria resistant properties to keep the bad smells from sinking in. Get your feet a pair of these people, they're so light and comfortable.

winter hike and overnight for the experienced

Winter season review. Check the weather, then check it again. The only way winter camping appeals to me is if i am skiing or going to a hot spring. This trip did neither. The mission was a 17 mile round trip hike to Conundrum Hot Springs. 2,457' elevation gain to 11,000'. The hike in was great most of the way. The crampons switched to snow shoes a few miles in, we were all by ourselves, and the trail was amazingly scenic. The elevation climbs, but its gradual. Only a few steep sections. I highly recommend having a map or a phone app w the trail and GPS. It was sometimes a bit tricky to pick up the trail, since there was snow on the ground. There's a parking lot before the trail, but it may be inaccessible if there's a lot of snow bc the road in is plowed but the lot isnt. We had to park another .5 mile away. The snow started falling softly by midday, and the temps stayed around 35F until late afternoon. As we approached the dispersed campground area just before the hot spring, the trail simply disappeared. We were only .25 miles from our reward: private hot spring and whisky. Maybe it was because hiking this last uphill part was in knee deep snow (bc we were now off trail). Maybe it was the 7 hrs of having this 45lb pack on, or maybe it was both, but we had to stop, rest, and make camp in the campground area. There was little daylight left at this point. We popped up our tents, insulated like crazy, and settled in for the night while the snow fell around us. Next morning, despite yesterday's ambitions, we abandoned the idea of sitting in hot water and opted to put on our frozen boots and get the hell outta there. It was a much easier hike back…until the open meadows where the snow from the night before had filled in our trail. Or those parts where the snow was blowing in your face. Ah, the ice beard. My buddy is a great person to lead in those situations. Has a few years on me. We made it out, alive, all with the sense of "Ok now i know i can do that and yep i know my limit" and a LOT of trail cred. Bring a shovel to help u make an even ground for your tent. You won't have any trouble finding a spot in winter. Only the crazies do this kinda thing.

Neat place, great rec lake, spots limited

The Gross Resevoir outside Boulder is a great place for people to go for some recreation just outside the city. People commonly drop in a paddleboard or kayak. I sadly don't have either, but I do have hiking boots and the hike from the nearby Forsythe Canyon Trail (moderate difficulty, one tricky section 3/4 of the way) which leaves from the parking lot area. It is a great 1 mile loop that ends at the north west side of the lake. I took a hammock with me and planted myself on one side of the lake's perimeter, overlooking a nice section of the resevoir.

Campsites are best accessed with a 4WD vehicle. There is a schematic map near the entrance to help you with the designated camping plots. This is also your last look at a bathroom - there are none located within the campgrounds. Bring in your own water as well.

If you're OK with primitive, this place has sites well dispersed for some privacy in off peak seasons. Since it is so close to Boulder, it is a common spot to see a lot of campers.

Good size campground for your backcountry adventures!

I was here for a weekend to do some fishing, biking, and exploring, as there's a trailhead right off the campground to explore the Sourdough and Buchanan Pass trails. I grabbed my fly fishing pole and headed in with the bike and hung out on St Vrain Creek trying to catch fish for most of the afternoon.

You have to pass through Peaceful Valley Campground on your way in, and there is a road to do some 4WD offroading on if you need more options besides what is available from the parking lot here at this camp.

There were a few bathrooms on site, and there's drinking water access. All sites come with your typical fire pit and picnic table, with a few also having a BBQ grill area. There are about 40 sites, some can accommodate RVs, but they don't offer any of the hookups. There is a dump area for garbage. Sites are reservable.

Nice spot for hiking and off roading fun

Stayed here overnight for some hiking in the nearby foothills. There are reservable sites, which I would recommend since it's a popular place nearby Boulder for some fishing, hiking and off roading and it only has 17 sites. It looked like about half those could accommodate and RV. The sounds around camp are going to be a mix of some wind in the trees, water running in the streams, and motorbike motors.

There are 2 washroom areas, no showers, and dumpsters. You can buy firewood from the camp host, who I assume is also servicing the other nearby campsite (Camp Dick). Each campsite has your typical fire pit and picnic table. Inot a big campground, but you're is this quiet valley surrounded by mountains and the stars at night were superb. There's an over spill parking lot for your recreational vehicles or extra camp mates.

Ranger Review [UPDATE]: Saris Freedom Superclamp 2-Bike bike rack at Lafayette Park Campground

Campsite Review

I was looking for a place to stay close to I-80 as I made a drive from Chicago back home to Boulder. This place seemed close enough to the highway to give a look, and I was not disappointed. I rolled in to the campgrounds around sunset and saw some people using the nearby lake to do some fishing.

I woke up, and there was a horse grazing across the road, and I discovered this really large, open space park next to the grounds also had a disc golf course. My campsite had a fire pit and a picnic table, there were others with electrical hookups, and sites that could easily accommodate RVs. There was a dump station and dumpsters for waste.

There were some playground areas, a place for firewood purchase, and a horse shoe play area adjacent to a rec building.

Product Review (update)

A few weeks ago I was awarded the Saris Freedom Superclamp 2-Bike bike rack from a contest run through TheDyrt's Facebook page. I have been able to use the bike rack for about 2 months, and taken it through a lot of different road conditions. You can read about the initial review here.

My overall impressions now that I've had the rack for a while longer is that it's a winner. You can watch a video of my overall impressions. While I still wish the rack offered some kind of way to get into my trunk without having to take the bike(s) off, it's just hard to argue it's a nuisance since it doesn't take that long to take the bike(s) on and off the rack. I've also changed my mind about the built-in bike locks. While I initially thought longer bike cable locks could be useful to lock up your bikes frame and front wheel (since most bikes have a front wheel quick-release option), I realized I had my own bike lock for my bike already that I just used, and I imagine most - if not all - people who will buy a bike rack for their bikes have locks for them too. A longer cable lock would require a larger place for it to be stored when not in use, which adds to the weight of the rack, which in the end isn't necessary.

In the city of Chicago, when I took the bike off during city commuting, I noticed it would have been nice to have the ability to fold the rack up closer to the end of my car, since there's so much city parking that's parallel parking, and the space added to the end of the car no longer made me a candidate for some spots.

Overall, this Saris bike rack is so easy to use, is super secure for my bikes, and was very durable - holding up to all kinds of 4WD-only roads. Definitely recommend.

The Sun Sets on Another Road Trip

Well, this 2,900 mile round trip Colorado-Toronto road trip has finally come to a close, and it's been a lot of fun. It certainly couldn't compete with my Rocky Mountain trip in late June up to Jasper National Park in Alberta on a scenery scale, but it had it's moments of solitude and a lot more lake time. To have been able to use TheDyrt to help plan out a few days on the road like my time in Land Between the Lakes, using info to figure out things like which campgrounds would be good for biking and canoeing, was a real plus.

I tried to avoid the corn fields of Iowa and Nebraska both directions, and don't regret doing the eastbound portion along I-70 and through Kansas and Missouri, but it was more of the same when it came to fields and fields of crops and prairies. My bigger regret is not giving myself enough time to explore more parts of Tennesse and Kentucky like the fun city of Nashville or the distilleries. Then again, I loved every minute of my time spent in Toronto up north in cottage country with my family, and would've regretted skimming days off that experience. With only so many days off, it's pretty easy to prioritize family. It just means I'll be back to Kentucky, derby time or camping season.

Ranger Review: Beard Born Beard Comb at Big Bone Lick State Park

Campground Review

When it’s the height of summer and there’s a campground that offers mini golf and has a pool, it’s usually a good place to stop in for the night. There’s also some hiking and biking trails accessible from the main turnoff from the highway, so there’s plenty to do in the area if you’re stopping on through or staying a few days. I even noticed a root cellar to explore, and there’s a camp store near the main entrance to stock up on basic supplies and munchies. They sell ice and firewood. There’s a playground and the shower facilities also offer laundry services. The campground itself has 59 spots, separated into a large section surrounding the amenities like the pool and showers, and then a back area with about 15 spots. I chose the more secluded area for some privacy and break from a lot of the families camping nearer the main entrance. All the facilities were clean, and the pool was open until 8pm. The camping price was a little high ($23) compared to normal state parks ($15-20) but good value considering the activities available like swimming and mini golf. I recommend a spot near campsite 59, since it has a huge fire pit and seating area behind it. The rec area on site is nice for large groups to do meals or activities, and near it there’s an entryway to the lake.

Product Review

As a Ranger on TheDyrt, I get products to test from time to time, and with Beard Born, I was given a discount coupon to purchase their beard comb and try it out. I've had the comb with me on this road trip, seeing how it would handle my beard and the growth along the trip. Overall, it's a very good comb. You can check out the unboxing video and the video review here. The wood it's made from is Argentine sandalwood, and it smells great. It also is very sturdy, so you don't worry about the teeth getting caught in your gnarly facemask and pulling your hair along for the ride. It gets the job done, and with teeth of two different sizes you're face and head are in good hands (or is it teeth?). It's great to use to help with grooming, if you're someone who's looking to keep your beard trimmed as it grows, since it can highlight stray hairs after a few brushes. I use beard oil and am finding after a few weeks now the oils have seeped into the wood, giving it a great finish and smell.

The carry case is a nice touch. I didn't think I would wind up carrying this thing around with me, but once your beard get's pretty thick it's nice it's something that you can carry in your pocket, protected, and with another pouch for your wallet belongings. I don't think I'll use it to replace my wallet, but I see how if you wanted to keep this comb is a bag with your other toiletries, the case keeps it protected from other stuff in your bag. You don't want toothpaste getting on your comb's teeth - that's not how toothpaste works.

Road Trip Update - Time for the passport!

After a few days of sweating without showering and talking more to my dog than to other humans, this was a great spot to cap off the road trip. It was nice to have only a 4 hour drive from Land Between the Lakes to Big Bone Lick as well so when I arrived I still had the daylight with me to go for a hike and try for the new low score at the on-site mini golf course. Tennessee and Kentucky has been an interesting experience and states I need to spend more time in. I missed out on Jack Daniels, horse racing, and all of Nashville. I had a deadline to keep and I’m certainly looking forward to the family time up in Canada, but to drive all these miles and hours and not have enough time to check out the music or liquor seems a little sacrilege. Whether it’s a Kentucky Derby or another camping expedition, I’ll certainly be back.

Much better spots within LBL to set up camp

Nickell Branch was a miss. It has one set of bathrooms, but they’re not centrally located. There are campsites close to the water, but not a lot of flat ground close to it, so you’re camping higher up and away from the shoreline, and even then the ground wasn’t very flat – so not a good place if you want to sleep in a tent. The sites were primitive – a picnic table and a fire pit, but not all sites had both. The nicest thing about this place was the road in and out which was nicely paved and allowed for some enjoyable biking, but given the options of campsites in the park area, I would look elsewhere before considering this place.

Small campsite with lovely lake views, if you're a planner.

Campsite Review

This very primitive campground has some great lookout points, if you’re lucky or savvy enough to get one. Aside from a select number of cliff spots, these basic sites are nestled away from the shoreline for shade, something very sought after here during the hot summer months. There is also some overflow camping spots in the middle of a grassy roundabout. Not much to say about the place – it does have lake access, but one would be best suited to look elsewhere within the Land Between Lakes Rec area if you have a proper boat needing a loading bay. The boat ramp didn’t look the greatest.

A quiet spot – I wish there were shower facilities and more options for spots along the shoreline. I was lucky to be camping here on a weekday, otherwise reserve ahead for a site with a view. I wound up using the campsite as a home base and driving to the Woodlands Nature Station a few miles away to rent a canoe and spend some time on the water. My dog enjoyed having the lakes to cool off.

Roadtrip Update: So long LBL!

Ever since the canoe paddle at Energy Lakes, I’ve wanted to do more from the water within the park lands. Since it was so hot out, I knew a bike ride with my dog would be risky, so driving to the Woodlands Nature Station to rent a canoe was a responsible decision. It also meant I wouldn’t need to concern myself with packing whatever I needed into a backpack for a bike ride, so when I arrived and parked the car, I made sure to grab my hammock, my backpacking stove, water, and a freeze dried meal and head down to the boat rental place with Sirius. The staff didn’t mind that I wanted to put the dog in the canoe with me (thank goodness, since there wasn’t really a backup plan) nor that I planned on taking the boat out to a random land outcrop to have lunch. I hugged the shoreline and used the trees to keep me shaded before my stomach told me “this is good” and I beached the canoe, set up the hammock, and boiled some water for some lunch. Besides some mosquitoes who were trying to get too friendly, I had the place to myself and I got to eat my now boiled Pasta Primavera in peace. Not a bad day and worth the sore shoulders the next morning from paddling. I always forget to stretch.  

I’ve spent a few days camping in Land Between the Lakes and overall have to say it’s been a fun, relaxing experience. I wish I came when there were some cooler temperatures though – the whole time I have been here has averaged in the 90s, and trying to do a mix of relaxing and recreation while staying cool has been a big challenge. When I picked this area to camp, I envisioned a lot of leisure bike rides with packed lunches checking out different hot spots. It turned out the entire park was one big, sweat-inducing-for-no-reason-other-than-because-it’s-95-and-humid hot spot. I was here during weekdays, so I am not sure how much people traffic the area normally receives, but I found the campgrounds and general lack of people both nice and concerning. I love a break to unplug from the pace of city life, but I also love seeing people enjoying the outdoors. I had plenty of great hang out spots in a hammock by the water, but it would have been nice to see a boat go by tugging a water skier or a family out fishing. Instead I found a beautiful place that’s under appreciated. I’ve been to my fair share of state parks and can say with confidence the roads you drive and bike on are a total crapshoot. Some lay down loose gravel, while others (like this place) had well paved roads. Given how much biking I did and how spread out the areas were in the park lands, I feel like the road quality saved this from being a tough few days. I spoke with a proper cyclist I ran into at the Woodland’s Nature Station who told me how often he comes here to train for the Ironman competitions strictly because the roads are good and the traffic is low. I imagine the same could be said if you’re training for some water skiing competition because the water is calm and there aren’t many power boats out on the lake. Check out Land Between the Lakes next time you’re passing through the area – it’s got a lot to offer. I simply recommend doing you’re homework and picking a campground that suits your needs, as there’s great variety depending on your recreation adventures.

A Peaceful spot in LBL for picnicing, camping, boating, biking.

This gem in the Land Between the Lakes Rec area is a great spot to set up camp if you don’t mind the lack of showers. There is a picnic area higher up the campgrounds offering nice reprieve from the hot sun with ample shade, and some have a nice overlook view of the lake below. There is a boat ramp and a dock for your boating needs, and many spots along the shoreline to set up camp for some waterfront views and sounds from the lake. I loved the intimacy of this place – there weren’t a lot of spots to choose from, but it was a great spot close to the other recreation services on offer (the Woodlands Nature station is south only a few miles). If you can do without the showers, I would recommend staying here within the park. In fact, I would say this is the best non-shower site in the park.

Ranger Review: Showers Pass Waterproof Socks at Energy Lakes Campground

Campsite Review

I wound up staying at five different campsites within the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, and this was my favorite. That largely is due to them having showers and canoe and kayak rentals, but hey – when you’re here in the summer, that’s what you want! Actually, Energy Lakes has the most amenities of all the campgrounds – including ice and firewood to buy and some additional common areas like a designated swim area (no lifeguard, but I imagine this makes it easier to keep an eye on kids) and basketball and volleyball courts. The only downside to this place is the lack of boat ramps, which is also surprising considering more primitive sites in the area offer those. I guess that’s the trade off – showers for no boat ramp. Luckily there are ample spots around the rec area in the park if you need to launch your boat. I would highly recommend a reservation here given it’s the most popular campsite in the park and only a few spots will get you truly “lakeside”. It is $10/hr for the boat rentals.

Product Review

As a Ranger for TheDyrt, I am given products to test from time to time. Today I was testing out the Showers Pass Waterproof Socks. You can watch the video review here. I didn't think there was any way someone could make a sock waterproof. I thought it would be more like a dry sack shrunk to mini proportions with some fitting elastic and it would be called a 'sock'. But here's Showers Pass, this Pacific Northwest-based company (I heard it rains there a lot) making this coolmax inner lined comfortable foot shield. Like, how?

I did a few bike rides in these, and the coolmax liner is definitely necessary since the socks are thicker to give you that water protection and in summer heat (it was about 90 degrees most of the days I was in this campground park) I was sweating everywhere. Energy Lakes has canoe rentals so I left my shoes in my car and dragged out a boat into the water and went for a paddle around the lake. It's a super cool feeling to walk into water just wearing socks and not get wet. It's like a wet-suit for your feet.

I did try to soak my feet, see if there was a "breaking point" for these guys. No surprise really, but if you walk into water that goes above the sock line on your leg, water is going to seep in since you've now completely submerged your sock and the elastic holding them against your leg really shouldn't be designed to be airtight, since then you'd have all kinds of other issues going on with the comfort and breathability of this sock. I imagine the majority of people using these aren't canoeing, they're bike riding and so unless you're trying to pedal through a waist deep puddle, I think you're going to be ok.

I do canoe a lot and these are my new favorite accessory. What I think is really promising about their performance too is since these socks were designed for activity, portages would still be enough for these socks to handle. Seriously Showers Pass how did you make these so freaking comfy and waterproof!?