Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self-Bailing First Impressions

After talking about it for literally years, Greyson and I took the plunge this summer and bought packrafts! Specifically, we bought the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing ($1,200). We’ve had them for a few weeks now and taken them out a few times, and I’ve got a good enough feel to give my first impressions.

Kokopelli Nirvana Packraft Review // tahoefabulous.com

Kokopelli Packrafts describes the Nirvana Self-bailing as:

The first-ever self-bailing packraft, the Nirvana is engineered to keep you above the water with our industry leading self-bailing packraft design, which allows water in the boat to drain automatically as you crush that rapid. Designed with a narrow trim, aggressive rocker on the bow, and a large-volume stern which the Nirvana performs best in Class 1 – Class 3 and offers excellent stability.

We did a lot of thinking about which specific model we wanted to buy before purchasing the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing. We knew that we wanted packrafts that could handle a little bit of white water, we wanted bottoms with some padding, and we didn’t want spray skirts. We also were leaning towards Kokopelli as a brand, mainly because REI carries it, and we both have REI rewards credit cards. We narrowed it down to the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing and the Kokopelli Rogue-Lite. We were initially leaning towards the Rogue-lite, mainly due to the lower weight, cheaper price and the fact that it is supposed to do better in flat water than the Nirvana.

Kokopelli Nirvana vs Rogue Lite // tahoefabulous.com
Kokopelli Nirvava (top) and Rogue Lite (bottom)

My friend Kristen at Bearfoot Theory has the Kokopelli Rogue (which comes with a removable spray deck), and she mentioned in her packrafting the San Rafael River trip report that when not using the spray deck, they ended up having to frequently bail water. Once we took that into consideration and acknowledged that we probably won’t often do long slogs where we would be carrying them, we decided that the extra weight and cost was worth it for increased durability, the self-bailing ability, and the extra capability in white water. Along with the packrafts, we ordered paddles. We wanted ones that broke down into four pieces, and we purchased the Werner Skagit 4-Piece Kayak Paddle ($144) in size 220 cm, which is the size Kokopelli recommended to us.

So far, we’ve paddled our packrafts on a lake, a mellow stretch of the Truckee River, and a rowdier section of the Truckee River. So far, I’m really happy with our decision to buy the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-bailing. First, it’s easy to get set up and inflate. The inflation system is pretty intuitive and goes much more quickly than I thought. We can get them set up in under ten minutes, and I imagine we’ll only get faster. You first inflate the floor and the raft most of the way using the airbag, then top off using your mouth and a hose attachment. Note: due to asthma, I struggle with this part, so Greyson usually has to do this. If you have breathing problems, you might struggle too.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review // tahoefabulous.com

The seat is attached using straps and double D-rings, which I thought was pretty easy. There are also instructional videos to watch for the set up. One tip that I have is to set the seat much further forward than seems intuitive – you want some bend in your knees when seated. I ended up moving my seat forward several times the first time we took the rafts out.

As long as you’re decently athletic, the rafts are easy to get in and out of . I practiced “falling” out in the lake in water too deep to stand in, and I was able to get back in on my first try. As expected, the Nirvana doesn’t track very well in the flat water, especially with a bit of a headwind. I wouldn’t take this on a long trip on a lake, but it’s still fun to play around on.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review // tahoefabulous.com

Our first river trip, we did the stretch of the Truckee River from the Truckee Regional Park to the Glenshire Bridge. This was maybe not the best choice for a maiden voyage, as it was rowdier than expected. I’m still learning how to paddle in moving water and I hit a lot of rocks, washed up on a lot of sandbars, and we had to get out and portage a particularly rocky section. I even fell out once! The Kokopelli Nirvana handled it like a champ, though. I was VERY glad we had bought packrafts with self bailing capabilities, because I’m sure I would have swamped several times without that. We’ve discovered that it’s important to top off the rafts once we put them in the water, as the air volume decreases when it gets cold. Depending on the length of the float, we have needed to top off again when the rafts start sagging. When I fell out, it was because I’d lost air, hit a rock, and the raft taco-ed.

For the second river trip, we went on the “Booze Cruise” section of the Truckee River, from Tahoe City to River Ranch. Now this section of the river can be floated in a gas station floatie while holding a Coors Light, so this turned out to be a great segment to get more comfortable on our boats. The packrafts tracked well through the moving water, even in sections with really low flow, and I was able to get a lot more comfortable steering. This paddle confirmed that the Kokopelli Nirvana is really stable in moving water – we were able to hop in and out easily when needed, and I hung my feet over the sides when I wanted to cool down.

Kokopelli Packrafts Nirvana Self Bailing Review // tahoefabulous.com

Once we finished paddling, we were able to easily pull up to shore both times. The packrafts are super easy to deflate and re-roll. The Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing weighs a little over 10 pounds and rolls to about 16″ by 12″, so it’s pretty easy to carry short distances, even with the paddle.  So far, I’ve just rolled mine up enough to carry in my arms and strapped it up using the seat straps. It can pack down to 12″ x 9″ x 6″, so for a longer walk, I could get it smaller and put it in a pack. After we got back home, we spread them out to dry before storing in the gear room. I like that you can store them rolled, so they don’t take up much room at all.

So far, I’m very happy with my purchase of the Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing packraft! I really like how easy it is to get out on the water with just the packrafts, paddles, and a dry bag and quickly be having a great time. I think we’re going to purchase PFDs soon, for rougher waters and get the battery powered Kokopelli Feather Pump for front country paddling. While it’s pretty easy to fill the packrafts using the human powered bag system, this will let us inflate them in less than a minute with a cheap, easily charged pump. I’m really excited about this new way to get outside and enjoy the rivers.

If you have any packrafting suggestions – gear, routes, paddling tips, etc., please let me know!

Kokopelli Nirvana Self Bailing Stats:
Size:
Outer Length – 90 in
Inner Length – 57 in
Outer Width – 37 in
Inner Width – 15.5 in

Weight:
Packraft: 8 lb 6 oz
Backband: 6 oz
Inflatable Floor with Integrated Seat: 1 lb 3 oz
Inflation Bag: 3 oz
Inflation Tube: 2 oz
Compression Straps: 2 oz total

Packed Size:
Folded- 12 x 9 x 6 in
Rolled Size – 16 x 12 in

Recommended For:
Rivers, Creeks, Extreme-Low-Flow (ELFing) – Class 3

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts Round Up

For years, I struggled finding women’s specific mountain bike shorts that were comfortable, durable, fit well, and had good coverage. Now there are more options than ever, and I’ve found some that I really love. I’ve rounded up and reviewed some of my favorites below.

Best Womens Mountain Bike Shorts // tahoefabulous.com

Sizing Note: I’ve found that women’s mountain bike shorts don’t tend to be “vanity sized” and I wear about a size up from my day to day shorts and pants. I also prefer my baggies (not chamois!) to be a little on the loose side, for comfort during a long ride. I’m 5’11”, 31.5″ waist, 38″ hips for size reference.

Best Overall Shorts
Patagonia Women’s Dirt Craft Bike Shorts ($149)
Patagonia hasn’t been in the mountain biking world for very long, but they got so much right with these shorts! I got them earlier in the summer, and I’ve worn them a bunch. They’re an awesome mix of great fit, comfort while riding, and durability. The legs are fitted enough not to snag, but not overly tight, and they are stretchy enough to have a good range of motion for pedaling, but they don’t stretch out very much over the course of the ride. The waist band goes up in the back, so I don’t have to worry about a gap of skin between the shorts and my jersey and is adjustable. They also come with a very high quality chamois which feels bulky while off the bike, but I don’t even notice once I start riding. Basically, the only downside is the high price, though I think the shorts are totally worth it!
Perfect For: Pretty much any ride you want to do – I recently loved wearing them on the Royal Gorge Rim Trail.
Size: 12, fits great

Patagonia Dirt Craft Womens Shorts // tahoefabulous.com
Patagonia Dirt Craft Women’s MTB Shorts

Most Comfortable Shorts
Shredly MTB Curvy ($105)
The MTB Curvy from Shredly are the first and only thing I’ve ever bought from an Instagram ad, and I’m so glad I did. The idea of putting a comfortable, yoga style waistband on mountain bike shorts is genius! Shredly was founded by a woman, and that show’s in the design of these shorts. They have a bunch of functional, accessible pockets AND come in a variety of colors and pattens from bright and whimsical (the Tina) to more muted (the Denim C). The shorts are long for a lot of coverage and are made of a tough, durable material. While this means they’ll be good in a crash, they’re also pretty hot on warmer days or long climbs. They do have zipper vents on the thighs which help, but aren’t enough for really hot and sweaty rides. The $105 price tag is fairly high, especially since the chamois is sold separately, but the quality is very high and they’re made in the US.
Perfect For: A day in the Mammoth Bike Park or a fall ride in Downieville
Size: 12, could size down

Shredly MTB Curvy // tahoefabulous.com
Shredly MTB Curvy Shorts

Great Value Shorts
Fox Racing Women’s Ripley ($80, on sale for $33-$62)
These shorts are a great value for bike shorts! Even full priced, they’re on the lower end price-wise for good quality women’s bike shorts. Plus, Fox releases these year after year, so you can frequently find older models on sale for a great price. They’re pretty basic and no frills, and only have one small, rear, zippered pocket. They’re very durable – I’ve crashed in mine and they’ve held up to wear and tear really well. The material is a little stiff and rough, especially compared to the higher priced versions. They’re not very stretchy, which helps them hold up, but also means the range of motion isn’t as good. They’re a tighter fit than, which is nice for not snagging on things, but also affects the range of motion. They also come with a chamois which I really like the fit of.
Perfect For: Riding the Donner Lake Rim Trail & Wendin Way Trail
Size: Large, fits great

Fox Racing Womens Ripley // tahoefabulous.comShorts
Fox Racing Women’s Rible MTB Shorts

These Don’t Look Like Bike Shorts
Club Ride Eden ($100)
While bulky, knee length bike shorts are great for protection from the branches, rocks, and bugs I encounter on the trail, they’re not really my style for wearing to the brewery after my ride. If I want a pair of shorts that goes a little more smoothly from trail to beer, I like the Eden. They’re definitely shorter than the other shorts and don’t scream “bike shorts” quite as hard. The short length makes them lighter for hot days, which is nice, but they lack coverage in the case of a crash. I’ve gotten some gnarly leg scrapes from wearing them on the wrong trails. The material they’re made from is very stretchy, so they’re super comfortable. However, they do tend to stretch out in the waist by the end of the ride due to this fact. They do come with a chamois, but I didn’t like how it fit. These shorts are great for casual rides, and I’m fine with slipping them back on after I change out of my chamois.
Perfect For: Mellow cross country rides like Elizabethtown Meadow Trail or Emmigrant Trail
Size: Large, could probably size down

Club Ride Eden Shorts // tahoefabulous.com
Club Ride Eden Women’s MTB Shorts

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

What to Pack for the Downieville Downhill

Last weekend, Greyson and I headed north into the Lost Sierra to ride one of my all time favorite trails, the Downieville Downhill. It just seems to get more fun every time I ride it, and this time was no exception – even though the temps were in the high 90s! Riding such a long trail, far from services, and in the heat requires more preparation than a typical ride. Now that I’ve done the Downieville Downhill a handful of times, I’ve got a packing list down.

Downieville Downhill Packing List // tahoefabulous.com

Bike & Gear:
I’ve seen people ride the Downieville Downhill on all types of bikes – from modern enduro bikes to old school downhill bikes to full suspension fat bikes to a guy on a single speed hardtail last weekend! However, I think that for maximizing fun, you’ll want a full suspension bike with at least 115 mm of travel. I’ve ridden it multiple times on my 2016 Transition Smuggler, which is a short travel 29er (130/115), and though I would like a little more travel for comfort and confidence, it’s still very doable. Having good flat pedals and real bike shoes has made a huge difference for my comfort levels on some of the Downhill’s trickier sections this year. I’m so happy with my RaceFace Chesters and Five Ten Freerider Pro. The Freerider Pro women’s version isn’t just sized down, it has a women’s specific fit, (which can sometimes be a load of crap) and the narrower heel/wider toe box fits me super well, while the men’s version didn’t.

Downieville Downhill Gear // tahoefabulous.com

A hydration pack is a must for this trail (click here for my blog post with hydration packs recommendations), and I like to have one that can fit at least 2 liters of water in addition to all my stuff. This time, because it was so hot, I had ~2 liters of water in my CamelBak Solstice and some Tailwind in the bottle in my frame. I packed a few assorted gels, chews, and bars – I like to have more than I think that I’ll eat just in case. I’ve bonked HARD at Downieville, and I don’t want to repeat that experience. Also in my pack, I bring a tubeless plug kit, 1 or 2 spare tubes (there are quite a few sharp shale sections), multi tool, tire levers, and a pump. Someone in the group should have a first-aid kit as well.

I would highly recommend using a full face helmet, though lots of people don’t. I think a lightweight full face with a removable chin bar, like the Bell Super 3R, is the best of both worlds. The trails of Downieville get dusty pretty much as soon as they melt out, so goggles like the Smith Squad MTB are really nice to have. I also wear elbow padsknee pads and padded gloves for extra protection.

Downieville Downhill Clothes // tahoefabulous.com

For clothes, I tend towards more coverage, even when it’s really hot out. I like lightweight long sleeve jerseys, like the Patagonia Nine Trails or the Pearl iZUMi Launch for sun coverage, protection from overgrown trees and bushes, and protection. I’ve recently gotten a couple of pairs of longer baggies that I really like – the Shredly MTB Curvy and Patagonia Dirt Craft, for lightweight protection. Another piece of critical clothing is a very supportive sports bra like the Brooks Juno– the trail is rocky and bumpy!

Post Ride:
Downieville is a fun town to hang out in, so we don’t hit the road right away. However, it’s a small town with only a few restaurants and stores, and can be expensive and crowded on a busy weekend. This time, we planned ahead and brought our Yeti Cooler packed with snacks. We pre-made Tailwind Recovery and kept those cold while we were riding and they were perfect to drink right away. We should have packed beers too, but, if you shuttle with Yuba Expeditions, you’ll get a free beer from their shop at the end of your ride!

Before I even got a beer or food though, I rode directly to the confluence of the North Yuba and the Downie in downtown Downieville, stripped down to my chamois & sports bra, and jumped in to the refreshing water. Nothing has ever felt better. I usually pack a swimsuit, but forgot and regretted it – so bring one. After my swim, I changed into comfortable clothes and the Chacos that I’d packed, and I was so glad I didn’t have to change back into sweaty bike clothes or non-breathable shoes. We didn’t see much this trip, but there is often a fair amount of poison oak just off the trail in Downieville as you get closer to town. Since it might be awhile until you get a chance to shower for real, wipes to remove the poison oak residue like these Tecnu ones can be really useful.

The Downieville Downhill is an incredible mountain bike trail and worth a road trip. It’s a classic for a reason, and having the right gear will make it an even better experience. Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Hot Weather Mountain Biking

The weather is finally getting warmer up here in Truckee, and it’s already pretty hot down in the foothills. That means it’s finally time for summer mountain biking!

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Summer is really the high season for mountain biking in the higher elevations. While it’s significantly cooler up here, it can still get pretty hot during the day, plus the sun seems to beat down even harder at altitude and it’s easy to get dehydrated. There are tons of ways to deal with hydration while mountain biking, and I’m going to lay out some details, recommendations, pros, and cons for my favorites.

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Hydration Packs: Hydration packs are backpacks that contain a water reservoir attached to a hose with a mouth piece that you can drink out of without stopping to pull out a bottle or take off the path. Quite a few brands make hydration packs, and they come in a wide variety of sizes, price points, and designs, including mountain bike specific ones. While generally hydration packs have the reservoir oriented vertically, mountain bike specific ones often have the reservoir horizontally across the lower back. Other specific features that mountain bike hydration packs often have include additional armoring for crash protection, big hip pockets for storage, helmet clips, and a suspension system to help keep the pack off of your sweaty back. While it’s completely possible to wear a hiking style hydration pack while mountain biking, I prefer the bike specific styles. I actually wear my Camelbak Solstice hiking and on short trail runs, which it works great for as well.

Summer Mountain Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

I have and recommend the CamelBak Solstice LR ($88). Other popular, well reviewed mountain bike specific hydration packs are the Osprey Packs Raptor ($140), CamelBak M.U.L.E. ($82), and Dakine Drafter ($88). The pros for hydration packs are that they give you the ability to pack a lot of gear, the ability to carry quite a bit of water, they distribute their weight across your whole back for comfort and stability, there a lot of options at a lot of price points, and they can be used for a variety of outdoor activities. The cons are that they tend to be on the heavy side, they can be hot and increase sweating during the ride, and having more contact points give more opportunities for chafing.

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Waist Packs: Fanny packs are finally back in style, but mountain bike specific fanny packs are a little different than the ones I remember from the early 90s. They are a little bigger than the purse style packs, usually have some sort of hydration system – either a spot for a small bottle or a reservoir and hose, and a wider waistband for comfort and stability.

Summer Mountain Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

I got the Dakine Hot Laps 2L ($40) for Christmas, and I love it – see my detailed review here. Other well reviewed mountain biking waist packs are Osprey Packs Seral ($83), Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack ($59), and CamelBak Repack LR ($56). The pros for waist packs include that they are light weight, they allow for more air flow across your back, and that there are fewer pressure points that might cause chaffing. On the downside, you can’t carry as much gear or water, there are fewer quality options, and they move around more while riding.

Other Hydration Strategies: The simplest, cheapest way to hydrate on your bike is with a water bottle in your bottle cage(s). For really hot days, you can even get insulated bike bottles, like this one from the REI Outlet, to keep your water cold. This has the advantage of being really easy, but it limits how much water you can bring and some full suspension bikes have one or fewer spots to mount your bottles. Also, you’ll have to find somewhere to store your tools/tube/snacks/keys/phone/etc. There are also mountain biking specific hydration vests, like the CamelBak Chase ($75), but I’ve never tried any out, so I don’t have any opinions or recommendations on those.

Basically, if I’m going on a shorter, hot mountain bike ride, I’ll use my Dakine Hot Laps with a bottle in my cage and if I’m going on a long, hot mountain bike, I’ll use my Camelbak Solstice with a bottle in my cage. Often, I’ll put some kind of electrolyte drink in my bike bottle with plain water in my Solstice or in the small bottle in my Hot Laps. For shorter rides, Nuun Active tablets have electrolytes without many calories, and I like Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel when I need more nutrition along with electrolytes. Tailwind has about 100 calories per serving and is really easy on my stomach, especially when it’s hot out.

Summer Weather Mountain Biking // tahoefabulous.com

Lightweight Gear: I tend to get really hot when I exercise, and I used to always want to ride in tank tops in the summer. But between getting scraped up in crashes and sun damage worry, I’m coming around to light weight, long sleeve bike jerseys. My lightest weight one is the Pearl Izumi Launch 3/4 Sleeve Jersey ($50) which I’ve had for a couple of years and really like it. Slightly heavier but incredibly tough is Troy Lee Designs Ruckus ($36) jersey that I’ve had for almost ten years and that has held up through a bunch of crashes. My newest light weight jersey is the Patagonia Nine Trails Bike Jersey ($59). I’ve worn it on a couple of rides now, and I really like it. It’s a little warmer than the others, but it’s still a great summer option. While I usually wear the same baggies year round, I reach for shorter chamois during the heat of the summer, like the Pearl Izumi Women’s ESCAPE Sugar ($60) and the REI Co-op Junction 5 Inch Inseam ($35).

Summer Mountain Biking Gear // tahoefabulous.com

While it’s tempting to skip gloves when it’s really hot out, I always regret that decision when my hands are still sweaty, but now it’s harder to grip the bars. I finally got lightweight gloves for this summer, specifically the Giro Rivet CS ($35), which I’ve used a few times and really like. I have SixSixOne Recon lightweight knee pads ($60) as well. If it’s really warm, I’ll strap them on my pack for the climb and put on for the downhill, but they’re also comfortable enough to pedal in if needed. Greyson also recently got the Kali Protectives Strike ($85), and he really likes them. Finally, having a lightweight helmet is a key factor in staying cool. I highly recommend the Bell Super 3R ($230), which is super ventilated and has a removable chin bar that you can take off for the climbs.

I hope this has been helpful when planning your hot weather bike rides!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Dakine Hot Laps 2L Review

As someone who grew up in the 90’s, I was very into fanny packs in elementary school. That said, I was a little surprised when they became so popular for mountain biking. I thought they’d be too small and move around too much, but after reading a bunch of reviews and trying on several different models, I got the Dakine Hot Laps 2L Hip Pack for Christmas from Greyson. I’ve done quite a few rides with it, ranging from a short lap of a smooth flow trail to a 20 mile gravel/singletrack/road combo ride to a steep, rocky, and loose route. I’m really impressed!

Dakine Hot Laps 2L Bike Pack Review // tahoefabulous.com

When I was shopping, I knew that I wanted something without a bladder, ruling out the popular Osprey Packs Seral. I also knew that I wanted a way to hold a water bottle, so the low profile Dakine Hot Laps Stealth wouldn’t work. The Hot Laps 2L was one of the few packs that met my criteria, and it had great reviews.

Now that I’ve worn the Hot Laps on a half dozen rides, I think that I can give my review on the bag. Even when packed full, the bag doesn’t bounce around when it’s worn and tightened correctly. For shorter rides, I’ll only use one water bottle, stored in the cage and not use the water bottle loop on the Hot Laps. In that situation, I center the bag in the middle of my back. If I am using the bottle holder, I orient it slightly to the side, so the heavy bottle is closer to the center of my back, which evens out the weight to reduce bounce and side to side sway.

Dakine Hot Laps 2L Review // tahofabulous.com
Photo from fanatikbike.com

For comfort and stability, tighten the hip belt really tight on the downhills and loosen it on the climbs, if possible. I don’t really like things tight around my waist, and I was worried that would be something I couldn’t handle with a waist bag. The Hot Laps hasn’t bugged me at all in that way, I think in part due to the fact the hip belt strap is wide, so it doesn’t have the “cutting in” feeling that thinner straps do.

For its small size, the Hot Laps can fit a fair amount of gear. I’ve maxed out the storage to fit a multi tool, tube, phone, snacks, and thin additional layer (the Patagonia Houdini, which packs really small) or tube, pump, tool, phone, and keys, depending on the ride. This isn’t a pack to take if you’re going very far or alone. I’ve generally used it on rides that are short, close to home, or with another person who is carrying most of the tools (thanks, Greyson!). If I’m going on a longer ride or going by myself, I stick with my 10 L CamelBak Solstice.

I also love that my back gets so much less sweaty when wearing this pack. i’ve worn it on a couple of hotter rides, and I was so glad not to have the sweaty, bulky pack on. I think the Dakine Hot Laps 2L is an awesome pack for a specific purpose – shorter and hotter rides when you don’t want or need to pack a ton of stuff with you. I wouldn’t have the Dakine Hot Laps as my only biking bag, but I’m glad I’ve added it to my gear closet.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review // tahoefabulous.com

At the end of 2018, my formerly trusty, now almost 4 year old Garmin Forerunner 910xt started to be not-so-reliable. It only seemed to track my rides on about one out of three outings. So I started shopping for a new GPS watch.

I wanted something that could track steps and heart rate without a chest strap, and I wanted something that I could wear as a day to day watch. I didn’t need something to track open water or pool swims, because my 910xt is still functional enough for that. I also knew that I wanted to pay under $300. I knew I wanted to stick with Garmin (bad experience with a Fitbit), and pretty soon narrowed it down to a Garmin Forerunner 35 ($169.99) and the Garmin Forerunner 235 ($249.99). The main benefits of the 235 over the 35 is that the Forerunner 235 has a color LCD display and the ability to control the music on your smartphone. While those features would be nice, it was not worth the almost $100 price difference to me. Additionally, the Forerunner 35 has a slightly longer battery life. I bought my Garmin Forerunner 35 in mid-January, and I’ve worn it nearly every day since then. The Forerunner 35 is a smart watch, GPS tracker and activity tracker, and I think it does a good job at all of these.

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review // tahoefabulous.com
Photo from Garmin.com

GPS Tracker
The ability to GPS track my mountain bike rides was the number one reason I wanted a new GPS watch, so this is the most important function to me. So far, I’ve worn it on two mountain bike rides and ten or so days snowboarding. (The downside of buying it in winter).

It’s worked great on mountain bike rides! It’s so much lower profile than my 910xt, so I don’t worry about bashing it in a crash nearly as much. I’ve bumped it into a few things just in daily wear, and there hasn’t been a scratch on the glass screen. I haven’t crashed my bike while wearing it yet, though. It also finds the satellites very quickly, usually within a minute, which means I’m not waiting around at the trailhead waiting to connect. After a ride is complete, the ride connects with the Garmin Connect app over bluetooth and uploads as soon as I get somewhere with service. I have my Garmin Connect account connected to Strava, and my ride appears there within a few minutes. This is a huge improvement over my old 910xt, which needed to connect over the ANT stick on my computer.

The automatic activity choices on the Forerunner 35 are Run Outdoor, Run Indoor, Bike, Cardio, and Walk. Unfortunately, the Cardio activity doesn’t connect with GPS, so if I want to track a non-bike or run outdoor activity, like snowboarding, I have to select run and manually change the activity to snowboard on Garmin Connect and Strava after uploading. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, just a little annoying. I wish there was an “Other” cardio option that launched GPS tracker.

Activity Tracker
The Forerunner 35 is an awesome daily activity tracker. It tracks heart rate, calories burned, activity minutes, steps and tells me to move when I’ve been sitting too long. I was curious about the heart rate tracker, because I know the wrist sensors aren’t as good as the heart rate straps (though it’s way less annoying to me!). After I’d had the watch for a few weeks, I went to my annual physical, and my resting heart rate measured there was within one of what my Forerunner 35 said! Where it does seem to be a little off is when I’m working hard – I think it tends to measure my heart rate as lower than it is. The calorie burn is based on your heart rate and activity throughout the day as well as the height and weight you set up in the Garmin Connect profile.

Garmin Forerunner 35 Review // tahoefabulous.com

I think the step counter on the Forerunner 35 is much more accurate than the basic Fitbit I used to have, which seemed to overestimate the amount of steps. I also really like that the step goal adjusts based on how many steps you take, creating an achievable goal to strive for. The Forerunner 35 will tell you to “Move!” if I have been sitting too long, which is great for someone with a mostly office job, like me. The Forerunner 35 tracks sleep and active minutes per week, though I don’t pay a ton of attention to those features. If that’s something you’re interested in, you can keep track with this watch.

Smart Watch
When you are in range of your smart phone, you’ll get notifications on the screen of the watch over Bluetooth. I get text, call, and email notifications – basically anything I set up as push notifications on my phone. Since the screen isn’t huge (0.93″ x 0.93″), I don’t see a large portion of the message, but usually there’s enough to get the gist. It’s not the most advanced smart watch out there, but it functions well enough, and I like that the smallish screen size makes it more wearable.

Additionally, I LOVE that the main face is just a basic watch. I haven’t worn a watch since college, but it’s so nice to check the time by just glancing at my wrist instead of digging out my phone. I do wish that it was easier to control which notifications came through on the watch. There are some push notifications that I want to come through on my phone, but not on the watch, like social media alerts for work accounts and new podcast downloads. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet though.

The battery life for the watch has been great for me. It supposedly lasts for 13 hours on GPS mode and up to 9 days in smart watch mode. I’ve never run it all the way to dead, I usually charge it overnight every 5 or 6 days. It also charges pretty quickly, within a few hours.

Pros
– Accurate GPS tracking that locks on to satellite quickly
– Tracked activities transmit over bluetooth to smart phone
– Wrist heart rate monitor tracks activity and resting heart rate
– Low profile is great for mountain biking or other outdoor activities
– Works well as daily activity tracker
– Good battery life
– GREAT value for its price, especially compared to other GPS trackers

Cons
– Silicon band gets stinky with daily wear
– Push notifications not easily customizable
– No GPS “Other Cardio” option

All in all, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is a great value GPS watch, especially for mountain biking. The activity tracker and smart watch features work well and are beneficial additions. If you’re looking for a lower cost GPS watch, I highly recommend this model.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

My Favorite Women’s Snowboarding Gear

This year in November I celebrated my eighth “Tahoe-iversary”, and I realized that I’ll be embarking on my 9th season of snowboarding this winter! Learning to snowboard as an adult was not without its challenges, but I’m at a point where I’m confident with my skills. Over my years of snowboarding, I’ve figured out some of my gear must haves.

Women Snowboarding Gear Guide // tahoefabulous.com

Baselayers
I love layering up – you can control exactly how much insulation you’re wearing and can always shed a layer if you overheat. I tend to get really warm when I exercise, so I tend to keep my baselayers on the lighter side. Plus, the weather in Tahoe tends to be warmer than resorts in the rockies or east coast. A good rule of thumb is that you feel a little chilly standing in the parking lot, as you’ll warm up from exertion.

My favorite base layer bottoms are the Stoic Merino Blend ($35 – $70) that you can frequently find on sale on backcountry.com or steepandcheap.com. I tried the more expensive SmartWool Women’s Merino 150 Baselayer, ($80) and while they are high quality and soft, they are way too short for me at 5’11”. If you are under 5’8” or so, you might have better luck.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Sugar Bowl Resort on a Powder Day

On top, I start with a really long, fitted tank top that I can tuck into my ski pants, like this one from Athleta ($20). The tank I usually wear is one I found at Marshall’s years ago – it’s a “fashion” tank instead of a workout one (like this one from Amazon $15), but it works just fine. Next I go for a long sleeved baselayer. If it’s a warmer day, I usually wear a SmartWool Women’s Merino 250 Hoody ($130) or the lightweight Patagonia Capilene Zip Neck ($59). Note: Capeline starts smelling really badly when you sweat in it, so that’s something to keep in mind. If it’s colder out, Patagonia R1 fleece is a great heavier baselayer. It comes in a Pullover, Hooded Pullover, and a full zip version. I ended up buying the men’s version, and it actually fits me in arm length, so that’s an option if you have longer arms (I found it’s not too tight in the hips, which is an issue I’ve had with other men’s jackets).

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Catching (a tiny bit of) air. Photo by Greyson Howard

Outerwear
Being dry and a reasonable temperature (not too cold or hot) goes a long way towards a fun day on the mountain. I tend to like having lots of coat options – I haven’t found a coat that can take me from a warm, spring day to a wet, cold and windy day. If it’s snowing or raining, I wear a raincoat (sized up) over a down coat or vest. For a truly waterproof raincoats, I’ve been very happy with my Patagonia Torrentshell ($129). I’ve also had good experience with Marmot raincoats, and the Marmot Phoenix Jacket ($250). For down, I have the Marmot Aruna Down Vest ($140) and the Aruna Hoodie ($150).
Patagonia has an array of nice synthetic options, if you want to avoid down. On really warm days, I’ll often just wear a baselayer and my Aruna vest, but if I’m worried about the wind I’ll grab a softshell. I have an awesome softshell hoody from Icebreaker that they don’t seem to make any more, unfortunately. The Patagonia Adze hoody ($199) is pretty similar, and Greyson loves his Rab softshell more than just about any of his coats (and he has more coats than me!)

I’ve been wearing something similar to the Armada Lenox ($179), which are technically ski pants (as opposed to snowboard pants) for the last five years, and I really like them. Snowboard pants tend to be baggier though, and I think with pants, it’s best to try on a bunch and find the ones that fit you best. Make sure you can move around in them – I’ve had ones that seem to fit fine standing up straight, but get too tight in the thighs in the snowboarder crouch. Another issue I’ve had with ski/snowboard pants is the fastener at the waist – I’ve had pairs that that the button would come undone every time I fell down. That’s not something you want to deal with on the mountain, so try sitting down on the ground in them, like you would be on your board. It seems silly, but it will help you see how they fit when you’re moving around. I like to have thigh vents, especially on insulated pants. If you get overheated, thigh vents let you cool down quickly.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Gear
I’m still really happy with my Burton Women’s Feather snowboard (see my detailed review here). It’s been a great board to take me from beginner to advanced terrain, and I don’t see switching out any time soon. I’m still on my entry level Burton bindings – the Burton Custom Snowboard Bindings ($199), which have held up remarkably well for the past seven years. They are starting to wear out, so that will probably be the next upgrade I make. If you’re looking for great value bindings, I’d highly recommend the Custom.

I’ve cycled through a few boots over the years – starting with the cheapest Burton lace ups, nicer K2s with a boa system that I got on last season clearance, before settling on the Ride Hera Boa Snowboard Boots ($260). Despite linking to examples here, my number one tip is DON’T BUY BOOTS ONLINE. Go to a store that is known for bootfitting, try a bunch on, get advice from the bootfitters, get inserts, and then pay full price at the store. There’s no substitute for a good fitting boot, and you can’t do that online, especially since boot designs sometimes change subtly from year to year. Seriously, the number one improvement to my snowboarding ability (besides just time on the board) was getting properly fitted boots with the appropriate stiffness. (If you’re in Truckee or North Lake Tahoe, I had a great experience with boot fitting at Blue Zone Sports).

Accessories
Much like my biking socks recommendations, you can’t go wrong with Smartwool socks. They come in several thicknesses, including Ultra Light, Light, Medium Socks, and compression ($23 – $50). They also come in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns – from plain black to adorable mountain print.

When I first started snowboarding, my hands were always freezing and the snow gloves that worked for shoveling the driveway didn’t cut it. I first got some mittens with mitten shaped liners, which I would not recommend. The mitten liners didn’t let me do anything I couldn’t do with my mittens on, so I’d have to strip down to bare hands anyway. Plus, the palms didn’t stay waterproof for very long, so I was shortly in the market for my next pair. Next, I bought Dakine Women’s Leather Camino mittens, which I still use and love. The leather palm is tough (no accidentally slicing it on sharp edges) and very waterproof once treated. I only break them out on really cold days, though, because otherwise my hands get sweaty. Most of the season, I wear DaKine Women’s Tahoe Gloves ($50). I’ve been really happy with Dakine brand gloves and mittens and will continue to buy them for the foreseeable future.

Sugar Bowl Resort // tahoefabulous.com
Sugar Bowl Resort on a Bluebird Day

I’ve raved before about my Smith Squad MTB goggles for biking, and I like the Smith Squad Snow Goggles equally as much. Smith’s ChromaPop lens technology reduces color confusion that affects typical goggle lenses and helps you see in more detail.  I’d recommend having a lens for the sunny, bluebird days (ChromaPop Sun or Sun Black), one that works in a range of conditions (ChromaPop Everyday Green Mirror or Everyday Rose), and a lens for stormy, low light days (ChromaPop Storm). I mostly use the sunny and mid range lenses, but there were some stormy days last winter I wished I had gone with the low light lens.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Helmet and goggle close up. Photo by Katie Riley

Helmets are a critical piece of safety equipment, and I ALWAYS wear mine! Get one that is cute and comfortable, and you’re more likely to wear it. I have a small head, and I think that Smith helmets fit me well. I have Smith Sequel, and I love the soft fabric over the ears and the vents, which are essential for comfort on warm days. Greyson has a big head, and POC helmets fit him well. Just try them on until you find one that fits well.

On days that it’s windy and snowing, I have a cheap synthetic buff, like this one from Amazon ($10). This isn’t something I’d spend much money on, but if you run cold consider splurging on a fleece BUFF. My cold blooded friend swears by it. I like to wear boots that  are easy to slip on and off and comfortable to wear to the hill. I have an older version of North Face ankle boots, similar to the Yukion. When it’s warm enough for the parking lot to be dry, I wear Minnetonka Cally Slippers or flip flops, which, to be honest, is my favorite time of year for skiing. Other things that are nice to have on the mountain are sunglasses that I don’t mind getting beat up, sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, and hair ties.

I hope that these gear recommendations are useful, and make it easier to get out on the mountain, whether it’s your first time or your 500th.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Gift Guide for Women Mountain Bikers

Mountain Bike Gift Guide // tahoefabulous.com

If you’re looking for something to give the lady mountain biker in your life, I have a few recommendations (Though most of these gifts are unisex, to be fair). These are all things I own and use or would be excited to get as a gift, and I’ve the prices range from cheap stocking stuffers to pricey dream gifts, so there’s something for every budget.

Stocking Stuffers for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com

Stocking Stuffers
Back up tubes: even if she’s got a tubeless set up, back up tubes are always important, and be sure to get the right size – 29er or 27.5.
Tubeless Repair Kit: speaking of flat tires, a tubeless repair kit will eventually come in handy. I have the Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tackle Kit ($20).
Portable Tire Pump: Yet another in the flat tire series, a portable pump is critical. There are frame mounted pumps like the Master Blaster by Topeak ($22) or a mini pump like this Planet Bike one ($10) to go in a pack.
Good Socks: Socks can be a great gift, especially with the rate most bikers wear theirs out. SmartWool is my favorite brand of cycling socks, and they come in a variety of thicknesses (Ultra Light to heavy) and height (micro to tall) and patterns ($10 – $20).
Gloves: I like to have at least three pairs of gloves, both so I can be sure to find at least one matching pair and so they get disgusting more slowly. I’m still a big fan of the Giro LA DND ($25) and Giro Xena ($20 – $35).
Anti Chafing Stuff: All bikers know the benefit of chamois cream, but did you know that they make Chamois Butt’r Her’ ($14)? I honestly don’t know how it’s different, and I’ve used regular chamois cream without my lady parts falling off. What’s important is some kind of chafing protection. I also like to have a stick of Body Glide to use to prevent sports bra chafing, as the stick is less slimy than chamois cream.
Grips: It’s always nice to have an extra set of grips on hand, since they wear out fairly often. I’m a recent convert to foam grips, specifically Odi F-1 Float grips , but if foam isn’t her thing, I’m a long time user of Ergon GA2 grips ($20)

Mid Range Gifts for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com
Mid-Range
Phone Case: I take my phone with me for safety (and selfies) and I like having a heavy duty phone case to protect my phone during crashes or precipitation. I’ve had the Lifeproof Nuud case on my last couple of phones and have been super happy with it. I like that the screen is bare, and my phone has survived several large drops and heavy precipitation situations. ($99)
Sunglasses: I generally like my sunglasses super dark, but I’m coming around to rose lenses for riding in filtered forest light. I have the Suncloud Cookie , but lots of the Suncloud glasses come with a rose lens ($50).
Goggles: For dusty or wet days, I break out my Smith Squad MTB goggles ($48). I actually have two pairs, one with clear lenses and a pair with darker lenses so I don’t even have to bother switching lenses (#lazy). These are the most comfortable goggles I’ve ever had – I’ve climbed in them on warm days and they haven’t been too uncomfortable. They do fog up a little on really wet days, but I think some fogging is unavoidable in any goggles.
Tires: Another product we go through quickly is tires, and nice mountain mtb tires are pricey! Classic tire choices include Maxxis Minion DHR and DHF ($80+). For a cheaper but still good option, I am switching to the Specialized Butcher ($70) and Purgatory ($60).
Hydration Pack: I have written several times about my love for the CamelBak Solstice ($100), and I still highly recommend it for a do-it-all hydration pack. This year, though, I’m asking for a smaller pack to wear on shorter rides, specifically the Dakine Hot Laps 2L Hip Pack ($40). This pack comes highly recommended for its ability to stay put and to hold a surprising amount of gear.

Splurge Gifts for Lady Mountain Bikers // tahoefabulous.com
Splurges
Helmet: The most important piece of mountain bike gear is your helmet, and having a well fitting, comfortable one can literally mean the difference between life and death. I’m a huge fan of the Bell Super R series series, which have a detachable chin bar and are light, well ventilated, and comfortable to wear ($160-$230). While you should always replace your helmet after a serious crash, the protection wears down on its own after years of use. My awesome Giro Feather is 5+ years old at this point, and I’m looking to replace it. While Giro doesn’t make the Feather anymore, the Giro Cartelle ($100) and the Giro Montara ($150) are equivalent designs.
Dropper Post: One of the best value improvements you can make to your bike is adding a dropper post, so it would be an amazing gift to receive! I already have a 150 mm dropper, but I’m looking to get a longer one the 175 mm version of the KS LEV that I have and am very happy with performance wise. Be sure that whatever dropper post you’re gifting will fit her bike!
Wind Shell: Most of the rides in the Tahoe area seem to be a long, sweaty climb to the top, then a rowdy and cold ride to the bottom. Because of this, a packable windproof shell is essential. I love my Patagonia Houdini jacket, which packs into its own chest pocket and easily fits in a hydration pack. It’s also great for hiking and trail running.
Floor Pump: Once you’ve got a tubeless tire set up, you need something with more power than your typical floor pump. I have and use the Bontrager Flash, and it’s worth the steep price tag ($120).
Wrist GPS: Since I love data and tracking, some kind of GPS tracker is essential to me. I have a big, bulky multi-sport capable Garmin Forerunner 910 (which has been great), but if I was buying a new one today, I’d get the Garmin Forerunner 235 ($235), which has a built in heart rate monitor and smart watch features in addition to its workout tracking capabilities.
Bike Skills Clinic: The number one thing that I want this year is to attend a women’s mountain bike skills clinic. I’ve heard amazing things about Liv’s Ladies Allride Clinic in Bend, which is what I’m leaning towards, but there are others all over the country, from major mountain bike destinations to small clinics on your local trails. Some other women-only clinics and camps that come highly recommended are VIDA MTB, Trek Dirt Series, and Roam Retreats.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Car Camping Road Trip Necessities

On the scale from ultralight backpacking to yurt glamping, I prefer to do my road tripping on the luxurious side. There’s a time and a place for cutting down your toothbrush and sitting on the ground, but, for me, road trips are not it! I’ve done a lot of car camping and road trips, and I have some great suggestions to make your time on the road and in your tent as comfortable as possible. I found options at lower and higher price points, so you can get a pleasant set up, no matter your budget.

Road Trip Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Sleeping:
Being comfortable while sleeping makes a huge difference to your quality of life on the road, and I think it’s the most important area to splurge on. I love having a big-ass tent. Greyson and I are both tall people, and, while we can both fit in a two-person tent, it’s a tight squeeze. We have the Big Agnes Tensleep Station ($449.95) and the footprint ($50.00), and it is incredible. The tent is tall enough to get dressed in and there is enough room for both Greyson and me, and our bags. It also has a large vestibule, so you can take off wet and muddy gear, but stay dry. The tent is easy to set up – though it definitely helps to have two people, it can be set up by one. It has plenty of guylines, so you can stake it out and make it stable in high winds, despite its height. It doesn’t pack down very small and is heavy, which is the only real downside. For four-person tents under $200 from reputable brands, you could look at the highly-rated REI Co-op Camp Dome 4 or the Kelty Salida 4. For sleeping, I want something long, wide and cushy, and the insulated Nemo Cosmo in long and wide is perfect ($139.95). It also has an integrated foot pump for easy filling. For comfort under $100, try Kelty Weekender ($59.95), ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Airpad ($39.99), or the old reliable close-cell foam Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest.

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

After more than 5 years, I’m still really happy with my Sierra Designs Zissou ($144.95). With water-resistant down, it has the benefits of down without the drawbacks in wet weather. For warmer weather, Greyson prefers a backpacking quilt-style sleeping arrangement, even for car camping, like the Enlightened Equipment Revelation ($255). With quilt bags, you can cinch up the sides and bottoms when it’s chillier, or use it like a blanket on warmer nights. If you opt for synthetic, affordable and reliable sleeping bags are easy to find. There’s the Mountain Hardwear Bozeman Quilt ($69.27) or the REI Co-op Trail Pod ($89.95) or the Marmot NanoWave ($89.95), which also comes in long. I didn’t use a sleeping bag liner until our honeymoon, and now I can’t imagine camping without one. I have the easily-washable and light Sea to Summit Expander Travel Liner ($34.95) which is on the cheaper end of liners. If you tend to sleep cold, you could get the Sea to Summit – Reactor Extreme Thermolite liner ($59.99) which can add up to 25 degrees of warmth! You could even use it as a standalone ultralight bag in really warm weather. Don’t forget a pillow! You can just bring a pillow from home for the cheapest and easiest option, but I have and like the NEMO Fillo ($39.95). A cheaper travel pillow is the Cocoon Ultralight Pillow ($25.95).

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Eating:
I’ve found that having a nice and easy to use kitchen set up makes us much more likely to cook and less likely to cave in to eating out. First up, a really nice cooler is worth the money. We are so impressed with our YETI Tundra cooler ($249.99). Stuff stays cold for so long! At a lower price point, the old school Coleman Steel-Belted cooler has good reviews and holds a ton ($94.99). For cooking, nothing beats the Coleman Classic 2-burner Stove, ($32.99) for both price and performance. If you want something that packs down smaller, there’s the Jetboil Genesis 2 ($239.59). We also have a Jetboil Flash ($99.95) that we use if we’re just heating water for coffee in the morning. On the cheaper side, the MSR PocketRocket ($44.95) is a classic for a reason – it works and, while not quite as easy to use as a Jetboil, it’s quite simple.

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

I like the ease of an all in one camp cookset, like the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper ($139.95). For a smaller cookset, look at the Snow Peak Personal Cooker ($29.95). You’ve also got to have utensils, and nothing beats a Titanium Spork ($9.95). You can also go super budget with this reusable GSI plastic spork ($1.75)

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Miscellaneous:
If you’re not spending more than a day in each of your stops, and you have a lot of time on the road, you can probably get away with charging your phones via a car charger. If you’re spending a few days exploring a destination or you have bigger things (computers, cameras, gps units, etc.) to charge, you’ll want a battery system. No matter what, this isn’t going to be cheap, but it’s better than camping out in Starbucks for hours! We have the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station ($199.95), which can charge up to five devices at once, via USB ports, regular plugs, or car chargers. You can recharge the power station from a wall outlet or via Goal Zero solar panel ($125.49).

Once you’ve settled in to your campsite for the night, you’ll want to be comfortable and entertained. While a lot of developed campsites have picnic tables for seating, dispersed or primitive camping lacks that amenity. Plus, a chair with a back is so much more comfortable! I’m not a fan of the ultra light or small packing camp chairs – if I’m bringing a chair, it needs to be the real thing. The REI Co-op Camp X chair ($39.95) is perfect. It’s roomy, has cup holders, and they seem to last forever. I’m also big on having a hammock whenever possible, and I’ve had no complaints about the ENO DoubleNest Hammock ($52.46). Don’t forget the Hammock Suspension System ($29.95) – you won’t be able to swing without it.

Car Camping Must Haves // tahoefabulous.com

Hopefully, you’ll be stopping for outdoor meals in gorgeous places on your road trip. I’ve found that having a water-resistant picnic blanket for these occasions is a must have. We’ve given the Nemo Victory Blanket ($79.95) as a gift, and the recipients love it. It’s truly waterproof (non just resistant), and you can even stake down the edges if it’s windy out! There are much cheaper options out there, like this one ($9.99) or this one ($21.99), but they aren’t going to be fully waterproof.

Camp games are a great way to entertain yourself and to make friends with your neighbors. I’ve played Spikeball ($55.99), Bocce Ball ($29.95) and Ladder Golf ($37.49) while camping and had a blast. Get waterproof versions of playing cards ($8.99) or games like UNO ($9.95) for durability and to protect from spills or sudden storms.

Finally, we love our solar powered, inflatable, multi-color Luci Lanterns ($19.50). While they might just seem like a silly gimmick, we truly use ours a lot. They don’t take up very much space at all, charge quickly (we put ours on the car dash while we drive), and the white is bright enough to read by. The multi-color function is fun for the wilder nights and for entertaining kids. If you just want white light, you can get the Original Lucy ($17.95) for a little cheaper.

There are some of my suggestions to make your next car camping road trip a little more luxurious! I didn’t hit everything, so what did I miss?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Gear List for the Ultimate Mountain Bike Road Trip: Camping

I’m back today to finish sharing my gear list for the Ultimate Mountain Bike Road Trip, this time focusing on camping gear and the miscellaneous things that enhance a road trip experience. You can check out part one, Mountain Biking Gear Packing List here.

Camping Road Trip Gear List // tahoefabulous.com

I mentioned that Greyson and I got married this summer, and our Ultimate Mountain Bike Road Trip was how we celebrated our honeymoon. We registered at REI for our wedding, and our generous friends and family helped us really upgrade our camping set up. Our amazing wedding gifts, plus some big upgrades we’ve made over the past few years meant that our car camping set up is pretty luxurious. When you’re on the road for a month, nice gear makes a big difference.

Camping Gear List
Sleeping Set Up: Your sleeping set up is one of the most critical parts of an enjoyable camping road trip. I’ve had my sleeping bag, the Sierra Designs Zissou Sleeping Bag, which has Dridown, a water repellant down filling. This has all the advantages of down (fluffy, very packable) with the advantages of synthetic (can keep you warm even if it gets a little wet). The biggest wedding present upgrade was the Nemo Cosmo Insulated sleeping pad. This sleeping pad is wide, warm, cushy, quiet and not crinkly, and easy to inflate with the integrated foot pump. For a pillow, I got the NEMO Fillo backpacking pillow. A camping pillow is never going to be as supportive as a regular pillow, but this one is pretty good. I finally got a sleeping bag liner, which was really nice for variable temperatures and keeping my sleeping bag from getting super gross when we went a long time without showering. I have the Sea To Summit Expander Travel Liner.

A little #gameofthroneswine on the #oregoncoast. #camping #oregondunes #toasterroadtrip #latergram

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on


Kitchen Gear: The kitchen item we used the most on the road trip wasn’t something that we registered for, but it was awesome – Sea To Summit X Mug. We filled a lot of growlers with beer, and then poured the beer into these folding cups. They’re also really stable, which is nice on uneven ground and picnic tables. We also got a lot of use out of the classic Coleman 2-Burner Stove. For our cookset, we used the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset, which has everything two people could need. The Snow Peak Cutting Board Set was another great addition to our camp kitchen. And I’m sure we would have gotten food poisoning several times without the YETI Tundra Cooler which kept our food cold for days at a time with only a couple of bags of ice.

After our #toasterwedding reception in #reardan camp 17 is #kingsleyreservoir above #hoodriver #oregon . #toasterroadtrip

A post shared by Greyson Howard (@greyson_goes_outside) on


Tent: During this trip, I joked to Greyson, “This is how people end up buying motorhomes, isn’t it?” I was referring to our huge, luxurious tent. We have the Big Agnes Tensleep Station 4, a four person tent. We’re both tall people (I’m 5’11”, he’s 6’3″), and a two person tent is not made for two people our size. This tent is big enough for us to stretch out, have our clothing bags inside with us, and have room to spare. The Tensleep also has two doors, which was a must have for me. It has two vestibules, one of which is large enough to take off wet gear, while staying dry, which is really nice for camping in wet places. The tent is huge – which means it has a large footprint and only packs down to the size of a large duffel bag. It’s very tall – I can almost stand up in it, but it has held up in the wind really well. The price is high, but even the small details are well designed, like plenty of very reflective guy lines and multiple ways to set up the “front door”. If you can’t make the full commitment to #vanlife, the Big Agnes Tensleep is the next best thing.
Battery/Solar Panel: Not going to lie, I like to stay connected. Also, since we were gone for so long, there were points when we both needed to check in with work, so we had an array of technology that occasionally needed to be charged. This was easy with our Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station and the Goal Zero Nomad 20 Solar Panel (similar here). It was easy to keep the portable power station charged up – we pretty much never dipped below 80% between our occasional motel stops and the solar panel.

Happy #nationalhammockday! #beer #Oregon #hammocklife #toasterroadtrip

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Seating:  I spent a lot of time in our ENO DoubleNest Hammock – occasionally I even let Greyson use it. I tried to convince Greyson that we should register for smaller, packable chairs, but he convinced me that we should stick with his big, bulky REI chairs. He was right. Having big, comfortable chairs to relax in was so nice at the end of a long day.
Roof Box: We needed every inch of storage in the Toaster for this road trip, and the Yakima RocketBox Pro 11 Rooftop Cargo Box helped increase our storage area. It’s not the fanciest roof box on the market, but it worked well. It’s not as loud as some roof boxes – we didn’t even notice a sound. It didn’t reduce gas mileage by that much, but the Toaster isn’t the most aerodynamic vehicle to begin with.
Lighting: We had two sources of light on this trip: our Petzl Tikka headlamp and the extremely awesome MPOWERD Luci color changing inflatable solar lanterns. We registered for one of these, and somehow ended up with three. I’m definitely not complaining – they all got used and have been a hit on every camping trip we’ve gone on since.
Bike Rack: An easy to use bike rack is critical, and nothing is easier than the Kuat Racks NV tray style. This rack comes with a flimsy cable lock, which we bolster with the Kryptonite 999546 lock for extra security.
Miscellaneous: There are a few more odds and ends that helped make this road trip awesome – the <Patagonia Black Hole Duffel, whose water resistant nature came in handy during a rainstorm in Whistler, the ridiculously awesome YETI Rambler can cooler, Packtowl RobeTowl, which made changes at the trailhead much easier, and our storage system of bins, two heavy duty ones for camping stuff and biking stuff and a collapsible one for our kitchen.

So there it is – my in depth packing list for the Ultimate Mountain Bike Road Trip. Don’t forget, you can check out my list of Mountain Bike Gear here. Did I miss anything?

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