The Do’s and Don’ts of Sleeping in your Car

Packs are packed, Camelbaks are filled, maps are folded, and everything is perfectly loaded into the car for the trip you have been meticulously planning for days. Then, the one problem you haven’t solved hits you: Where am I going to sleep? At this point, you have three options:

  1. Wake up at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m. (Really, though, does life exist at such an hour!?)
  2. Get a hotel room (Who has the money for that?)
  3. Somehow attempt to catch a decent night’s rest in your car at the trail head

If you are anything like my boyfriend and I are, you will go with the third option, but boy, can it make for an interesting evening! Luckily, as the years have gone on, we have experimented with sleeping in everything from an SUV, sedan, or coupe to a minivan or station wagon, with a camper or two thrown in. This array of vehicles has enabled us to develop some tricks that not only make car camping really fun, but also leave you waking refreshed and rested for your big day ahead!

Car camping is an art. From the position of your seats to how the blankets are organized to even how you sleep, all of these factors determine how well you wake up the following morning. However, I want to break down a few of the do’s and don’ts learned over my years of car camping, and hopefully, your next backpacking trip will begin rested and refreshed!

[Credit: Liz Bonacci]
[Credit: Liz Bonacci]
DO: Lay your back seats flat. If you are worried about ruining the seat, don’t be! They are far more durable than most realize. Not only will this give you more room to stretch out, but if someone happens to look into your car window at night, you will be a little less conspicuous.

DON’T: Attempt to lie across your back seat. Really…just don’t. The same rule applies to the front seats of your car. No one enjoys waking up with a seatbelt buckle imprint on his or her back.

DO: Take the time to find a lightweight fabric to use as curtains. Yes, I did say curtains. Personally, I tend to sleep better when I feel secure, and parking my car in the middle of a forest or on a deserted road does not normally seem as such. I have accumulated a nice collection of sheets best for rolling their ends into the back window. Sure, a part of the sheet hangs out, but at least it won’t be going anywhere.

The front windows I tend not to worry about, as, first, the front seats block you, and, second, I throw another blanket up over them to give a backboard feel to my new sleeping area. With another sheet inserted into the trunk doors’ top hinge, the back window is covered once you slam the trunk closed.

DON’T: Attempt to just bury your head under blankets. Eventually, you are not going to be able to breathe!

DO: Leave a sunroof or front window slightly cracked open. This makes it easier to breathe, and if you’re camping with someone, won’t subject you to the smell of each and every breathe he or she takes. Plus, it helps avoid condensation building up all over the windows.

DON’T: Leave the windows fully open! No one likes surprise midnight visitors!

DO: Layer, layer, layer! This is the MOST important “do” of car camping. The first step to adequately layer your vehicle for a peaceful night’s slumber is adding towels. Make sure they cover the entirety of the area you will be sleeping on. They serve as not only your first layer, but also help keep the rest of your sleeping paraphernalia clean.

Next, throw down a comforter or something similar. I use this because it tends to be fluffier and bigger than most blankets.

Then comes the sleeping pads. These will be your primary bed layer and also the one that will give you the best night’s rest. Your muscles will thank you the following morning.

Finally, here comes the best part: Add as many blankets and pillows as your heart desires! The more added, the comfier you will be!

DO: Remember to have fun! Car camping is like a grownup slumber party. Hopefully, with some of these suggestions, your next time out will result in one of the best night’s sleeps you’ve gotten on the road!


4 Tips for Camping and Hiking with Your Dog

If you are anything like me, your dog is your best friend. When I move, she moves; when I get up, she gets up. And, when I leave, she tries everything to get out that door with me. This “problem” led my boyfriend and I to research taking our dog hiking and camping with us.

Google is a great way to find communities of outdoor enthusiasts who bring their furry friends hiking and camping. These communities offer great suggestions and advice, so that Fido stays happy while on the trails. But, if I have learned anything from owning three dogs that I regularly take camping and hiking, it’s that nothing beats the age-old trial-and-error approach. This is why I hope sharing some of my successes and failures will leave the next hiker with a tail-wagging experience they can’t wait to repeat.

1. Know your Trail Conditions

Before you leave, check out the many online sites providing accurate and up-to-date trail conditions. Sites like NewEnglandTrailConditions.com give you daily reports on trail surfaces, with many noting any hazards or obstacles that could pose difficulties for people and dogs alike.

In 2014, we made the mistake of neglecting to check out trail conditions before hitting Mt. Moriah, and needless to say, we, along with our dog, were in for a long, daunting, and rough hike. While the “pot-holes” that stalled us were a tiring problem for everyone, another, more serious danger is when a trail involves a low level of rock climbing.

Recently hiking the Glen Boulder Trail, we discovered this issue first hand when we encountered a woman struggling with her dog to make it down the rock face. The poor dog was so frightened that my boyfriend had to carry her down until the trail turned back to dirt.

Camping with Dogs

2. Invest in Doggy Gear

I am obsessed with shopping, but for a hiker, that trait can often be costly. While I concede that maybe I really didn’t need that fourth Hydro Flask glass, we did need our doggy gear. So far, the best purchases have included RuffWear’s Approach Pack, and Bark’N Grip Boots.

While on the pricier side, this gear allows our dog to carry her own weight, thus saving our backs, and ensures her paws will be protected over any type of terrain. Disaster is spelled if your dog can’t walk and you have to carry him miles down a trail.

3. Packing for Your Dog

Just like people do, your dog needs ample food and water for a strenuous day of hiking. However, whenever you hike, water accounts for a majority of the weight you carry. Although this may seem like the perfect place to skimp, especially if you have a filtration system, water is never a guarantee in the backcountry. So, for your dog’s pack, make sure to add enough food and water. You want them to be as prepared for the unexpected as you are.

4. Be Mindful of Your Dog

Does your dog listen to commands? Is he friendly? If you are planning to take your dog hiking or camping, these are two serious questions you need to ask yourself. If your dog does not do well with other people or dogs, then taking him hiking is probably not the greatest idea.

Also not great is if your dog has difficulty listening. We are fortunate that ours does very well with verbal commands, so we can leave her off-leash without fear of her running off. A simple call or us being out of her eyesight sends her running back. However, were she not this way, I would definitely have her on a leash to ensure I had full control at all times.

One last hazard I feel gets overlooked is plants. Many plants are deadly to canines, so being able to watch to prevent any ingestion is paramount!

There you have it – a few suggestions to keep Fido’s tail wagging during your next outing! 


MntnReview: Top 3 Post-Hike Breweries

Editor’s Note: Sometimes, it’s the secondary additions to our outdoor adventures that have the largest impact on the time we spend outside and with friends. MntnReview aims to give you the best recommendations, reviews, and tips for the slightly more off-beat pieces that go into making your journeys great.

 

“We need to stop on our way up and get beer.”

“All right, but where are we going afterwards?”

These two sentences are repeated every time my boyfriend and I head out on another trip. This tradition of enjoying a beer on the summit and then finding a brewery after began two years ago. I liked to think we were doing something original, but after spending years in the hiking community, I now know we’re not the only ones enjoying this luxury.

Our ritual has two parts, even if they don’t always happen together. First, choosing to enjoy a drink while on a hike is completely dependent on time, place, and manner. For instance, if we are traveling in the White Mountains during winter, I likely do not want to linger on a summit longer than it takes to snap a few pictures. On the other hand, spring, summer, and fall bring gorgeous weather that makes you want to stay – so why not enjoy a nice cold one with your picnic lunch?

However, if weather, weight, or other conditions prevent it, we simply opt to enjoy one after the hike. But, in this instance, knowing how to find the perfect brewery is essential. Options abound whether you are in New England conquering the 4,000 footers or in New York hitting the Catskills and Adirondacks.

Yelp is excellent for a general idea of how breweries stack up against one another, but nothing beats first-hand knowledge! I have found the best ones to try off the beaten path.

1. Moat Mountain

 

If you happen to be in New Hampshire playing around in the White Mountains, I highly recommend a stop in North Conway. Located in Mount Washington Valley, this little town is old-world New England meets bustling city charm, and it features one of my favorite breweries. Nestled inside what was once a personal home, Moat Mountain has something for every palate – a stout, a hoppier IPA, or something sweet and refreshing like a blueberry. My preference by far is Miss V’s Blueberry, but for the beer enthusiast who may be slightly indecisive, the eight-beer sampler is always a safe bet. Plus, I don’t know if you could find better French fries anywhere!  

[Photo: Liz Bonacci]
[Photo: Liz Bonacci]

2. Keegan Ales

If New Hampshire is a little far for your weekend getaway, another one of my favorites is hiding right in the heart of the New York Catskills. My boyfriend and I stumbled upon this local hotspot after hiking Peekamoose Mountain in Kingston, New York.

We were definitely outsiders walking into this place, but if you can put the stares from people wondering if you just moved to town out of your mind, this brewery has not only a fantastic beer selection, but one of the best mac and cheeses I have ever had. If you decide to give this spot a go, Jo Mama’s Milk, voted by the New York Times as one of North America’s top 10 imperial stouts, does not disappoint! However, if stouts are not your thing (they aren’t really mine, either), the Old Capital is a light, refreshing, and sweeter alternative.

[Photo: Liz Bonacci]
[Photo: Liz Bonacci]

3. The Heady Topper

If these two breweries haven’t struck a chord with you, then maybe you are up for more of a challenge.

Vermont is the home of a nationally famous beer called Heady Topper, formerly served exclusively at The Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury, VT. Now brewed once a week and distributed to only a handful of select liquor stores, this notoriously difficult-to-find beer has to this day eluded even us! Why is Heady Topper so popular? Well, I don’t know – I have yet to taste it, personally, but it sure does get rave reviews on sites like the Boston Globe and Beer Advocate, and it’s a must-try just because it’s so hard to find! This beer seems to be worth its weight in travel time!

 

There you have it, guys: three breweries in three states to hopefully cover the expanse of your next adventure! Even if you aren’t a big drinker, the chance to share some laughs and stories with your hiking buddies is the stuff that memories are made of.