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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Countdown to Colorado - Camping Tips and Tricks

“Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.” – Jeffrey Rasley

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Remember that countdown I mentioned in my last post? We are less than seven days away – from Colorado, from the mountains, from our home away from home. It is so much more than that for me, though. It’s my reprieve, my reset button, my place to get away, my reminder of how big the world is and how small I am.

This last year has been, simply put, rough. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with fostering, with figuring out who we are as parents and as people, with finding our rhythm. We’ve had countless sleepless nights, repeatedly questioned our own decisions, and had others question our choices. We’ve found who our support system is, but also realized there is so much support needed than what is available (way more than probably any foster parents actually have).

Through all of it, though, we’ve had some incredible wins. We’ve had awesome job changes, had some great trips, made wonderful new friends, and have learned more about ourselves than we probably ever thought possible. The road has been a rough one, but we have taken the road less traveled and it has opened our eyes and taught us so much.

One of the things that this past year has taught me is that self-care is absolutely everything. There is a reason they say to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others – because you cannot help others if you don’t first help yourself. Put on that oxygen mask, whatever that may be for you. If it’s an adventure you need, take it. If it’s a run you want, get on your shoes and go. If it’s fast food – heck, I’m with you. If it’s adopting a puppy, do it. Do the things that make and keep you whole so you aren’t trying to fill others’ cups while yours sits empty.

Photo Credit: @momentaryhappiness

That’s what I will be doing in Colorado – going into the mountains, disconnecting from society (at least for some of the time), and taking in the beauty of nature. I’ll be waking up in a tent every morning to the sunrise and birds (but also, sometimes, waking up before the sunrise for hiking purposes). I’ll be eating dinner by the campfire. I’ll be drinking my morning coffee by the river. And I’ll be taking the much-needed break from all of the craziness that is the day-to-day in the twenty-first century.

Are you bored yet? Are you, somehow, still reading this? If the first answer is no, and the second answer is yes, you’re in luck because now is where I am going to start talking about travel! It has been nearly two full years since I have shared any camping tips or tricks in-depth. Since our style of camping has changed dramatically, I thought it would be a great time to revisit and update the tips and tricks list based on our experiences.


Previously, I shared our biggest takeaways in Sleeping Under the Stars - Tent Camping Tips and Tricks. Although a lot of the tips are still relevant, some of them have changed. As you may remember, we used to use a tent similar to the one found here. Last year, though, we upgraded to the Smittybilt GEN2 Overlander Tent, which sits atop a rack over our truck bed.

Some of Our (Updated) Biggest Takeaways:

  • Pay attention to the temperature rating on your sleeping bag, along with the low temperatures expected where you plan to camp. Do not make the mistake of assuming that any sleeping bag will be fine for the occasion, or you may be running to the store to buy yourself extra blankets and sleeping bags after the fact. A good explanation for the sleeping bag temperature ratings can be found here.

  • Do not attract bears to your campsite. This is very important, and hopefully, I do not need to explain why. It is highly possible, depending on where you are camping, that you will be near bears. The chances of seeing a bear or having one come across your campsite are less likely in designated camping areas, but when dispersed camping, it is more likely to run into them. To help avoid luring them to your campsite, keep food up in a tree or locked in your car, out of sight. Bears are smart enough to recognize coolers and food in cars. They’ve also been known to open a car door to get some snackies, then let the door close behind them. Bears are not as likely to be able to easily open the door on the way back out. This could cause some seriously bad news for you, your car, and the poor bear that got stuck inside.

  • Bring a make-shift kitchen sink. Living out in the wild is nice, but being able to wash your dishes, hands, and brush your teeth is also nice. Bring a jug of water - one with a spigot is a great choice (or awesome collapsible ones like this)! We typically bring a sponge and a small container of soap in a Ziploc baggie for dishes, and bring paper towels along with us also. Bonus - the paper towels are perfect for helping start a campfire. If you prefer something pre-made, they have multiple options for that as well, like here.

  • Learn how to shower outdoors. Primitive camping (or backcountry camping) has no amenities whatsoever, while we are on the subject of activities involving water. For those like us that enjoy hiking everyday while on vacation, showers become an absolute necessity. We have purchased a few items along the way to allow us to shower if we are backcountry camping and needing to do so:

  • Bring entertainment. Camping is great. Enjoying nature is even more so. Sometimes, though, it gets too chilly to hang out by the fire outside, but you’re not quite ready to fall asleep yet. This tablet mount is perfect for nights in the tent. Download a movie or two on your iPad or tablet. There’s something so fun about watching a movie, hanging in a tent out in nature. My other favorite entertainment? Reading my Kindle during quiet times at our campsite.

  • S’mores. Is there any additional information needed here? Seriously, though - keep in mind that some areas do have fire bans in place at certain times of year. Colorado, for instance, has one in place nearly every time we go out there due to excessive heat and lack of rain. Investing in a mini propane grill was one of the best ideas we ever had for our camping adventures, especially for when we can’t have a campfire.

  • Leave no trace. If anything sticks with you from this post, please make sure it is this. Nature is incredible. Having the opportunity to go out, set up a campsite, and sleep under the stars is one of the best experiences there is. That being said, it’s not nearly as enchanting if there is garbage all around. Get out there, enjoy what nature has to offer, but please make sure to pack out everything you bring with you. Keep nature as it is intended to be. The seven Leave No Trace principles are as follows:

    • Plan ahead and prepare.

    • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

    • Dispose of waste properly.

    • Leave what you find.

    • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).

    • Respect wildlife.

    • Be considerate of other visitors.

    • If interested in learning more, be sure to check out Leave No Trace Principles.


Now, this next week will be filled with work, last-minute vacation prep, snack and grocery shopping for the road trip and camping, and celebrating our anniversary. The anniversary celebration will continue throughout the week into next week as we hightail it out to our favorite place to celebrate us, everything we’ve accomplished over the last eight years (plus, those multiple years we were together before marriage), and our shared love of the outdoors. We will also be celebrating the ability to visit friends and family in the area and make new memories along the way. Essentially, if you need us, don’t – because the mountains are calling, and we must go.

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