Category Archives: Blog

Truck Bed Tent – Our Guide To Tents For Truck Bed Camping

A truck bed tent, also known as a pickup bed tent, is the key piece of equipment needed for the exciting activity of truck bed camping. Our guide will help you choose the best one to suit your needs.

Lightweight Family RVing


KZ-RV adds the 18RBT floorplan to its Sportsmen Classic line, for a total of 10 lightweight travel trailers ranging from 15 feet 10 inches to 22 feet for the 2016 model year. The new, expandable Sportsmen keeps it simple for families, while providing all the necessary amenities, according to the manufacturer.

KZ-RV-Sportsmen-2The 18RBT has full-size beds housed in pop-out structures at each end of the RV, a dinette that folds down into a 78- x 38-inch bed, and a 70-inch-long couch that also folds into a bed, to sleep a total of six people. The expandable trailer has 6 feet 3 inches of headroom, plus a kitchen and bathroom that the company claims rivals that of many larger travel trailers. A large overhead cabinet in the kitchen is stationed next to the standard microwave with a two-burner range below. A 4.6-cubic-foot wood-paneled refrigerator blends in with the cabinetry.

At 18 feet 10 inches, the 18RBT weighs less than 2,700 pounds unloaded and can be towed by properly equipped minivans and SUVs. MSRP for the 18RBT is $14,439.

KZ-RV, 866-472-5460 |





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No Compromise Performance


A trio of kits from BD Diesel Performance keep the fuel at optimum pressure and protect injectors for maximum gains when adding power-enhancement products

BD’s Flow-MaX V3 Lift Pump and Fuel Filter kits are packaged with all the hardware and small parts for installation by seasoned do-it-yourselfers.

BD’s Flow-MaX V3 Lift Pump and Fuel Filter kits are packaged with all the hardware and small parts for installation by seasoned do-it-yourselfers.

As much as I don’t want to be that person who loudly states the obvious, in the case of towing, the pickup is the true workhorse. Individual expression of vehicle personalization, whether bolting on accessories for aesthetics or modifying an engine to add performance and power, is virtually universal among truck owners. The current crop of truck engineers from auto manufacturers is providing diesel platforms that offer very stout out-of-the-box, asphalt-tearing performance levels, and there are a number aftermarket products that add eye-popping horsepower and torque. But “bolting on” performance does not come without a few mechanical setbacks, such as premature fuel filter clogging and fuel-injector failure. Most diesel fuel injectors are made up of several complex internal moving parts operating under a great amount of pressure (typically more than 25,000 psi). Unfortunately, what many performance companies don’t mention is that, while the stock injectors can handle most of the extra fuel being shoved through them, a common weak point is the maximum volume of fuel being delivered by the stock pump system, which can’t keep up with the gains. The same is true for the factory filtration system; it simply can’t keep pace with monster amounts of additional fuel being pushed through.


(1) Locate the original fuel filter, which is flanked by the brake master cylinder and air filter horn.


(2) Original banjo bolts are on the backside of the factory fuel filter.


(3) Rubber hose and new adapter fitting are connected to the fuel filter and secured with a hose clamp.


(4) Instructions call for mounting the fuel pump and filter kit on the inside of the frame, but we ran into clearance problems here and elected to mount the pump on the outside of the frame


(5) with the provided stainless-steel straps.


(6) When using the filter kit with the BD pump, the screens are removed from the barb fitting that go into the inlet and outlet in the filter housing.


(7) Loctite gel is applied to the adapter that screws into the filter head before tightening.


(8) It’s important to coat the gaskets on the fuel filters so they will seal against the housings.


(9) Filter fittings on the pump only use O-rings for proper sealing.


(10) The pump is mounted to the frame and filter housings are attached to the pump. This is the complete assembly minus the filters.


(11) After cutting the truck’s fuel feed line, the rubber hose is connected and double clamped. This hose is routed to the inlet on the filter housing.


(12) The fuel tank was dropped from the truck frame for access to the factory fuel basket/pump assembly.


(13) The line to the original pump is lightly scored and cut at this point before removing the rest of the pump assembly.


(14) The end of the fuel feed line must be cut precisely to prevent collapsing and the possibility of running out of fuel.

(15) The original filter on left is compared against the BD filters, one of which is a water separator. A new filter (from parts store) was installed in the factory housing at the same time.

(15) The original filter on left is compared against the BD filters, one of which is a water separator. A new filter (from parts store) was installed in the factory housing at the same time.

(16) A pressure switch is mounted to the CP3 rail injection pump using new adaptor and sealing washers.

(16) A pressure switch is mounted to the CP3 rail injection pump using new adaptor and sealing washers.

Owners adding power improvers can look to BD Diesel Performance for a trio of cost-effective products that will make sure the engine never runs low on fuel volume. The company’s Flow-MaX Fuel Lift Pump Kit, Fuel Filter Kit and the Low Fuel Pressure Alarm Kit are products that allow owners to realize the optimum benefit from diesel-engine performance equipment without compromising relative componentry.

The heart of the system is the conversion to an external, frame-mounted BD Flow-MaX V3 Lift Pump. BD’s Flow-MaX Fuel Filter Kit is highly recommended for use with this new pump, especially when considering it’s almost triple the size of the stocker. Topping off the new pump and filtration improvements is BD’s Low Fuel Pressure Alarm Light, which provides yet another level of insurance for those who like to monitor real-time function. While these three products work best as a team, they are only offered à la carte.

We installed these kits in a 2006 Ram, and quickly discovered that a little pre-planning will go a long way, especially in key areas like determining fuel hose length and the number of clamps needed, in case a slightly custom assembly becomes necessary. Also, this project is technically doable by advanced do-it-yourselfers, but the use of a vehicle lift will eliminate a lot of struggles when removing the fuel tank that otherwise would be encountered while crawling around on the ground.

BD supplies all the necessary hardware, brackets, wiring terminals, filters and pressure switch for all three kits, but it’s a very good idea to double check the presence of all the parts. The parts for all the kits are crafted using high-quality materials and precise machining. Plan on devoting at least a full day to the project just in case there’s a small setback. It will also be in your best interest to solicit a capable friend’s help. Another key point is to begin the project with an almost empty fuel tank; even a quarter full tank will still be very heavy. We found that the tank was manageable at 1/8 full.

After battery disconnection, the installation begins by removing the banjo bolt on the factory fuel filter housing, facing the rear of the truck. With the factory fuel supply line banjo fitting removed, the Flow-MaX metric-thread to JIC and JIC to barbed adapters can be secured in their specified places. This is also the time to connect the length of 3/8-inch fuel hose to the new barbed fitting using one of the hose clamps, followed by loosely running the remaining hose down to the underside of the truck and along the driver-side frame rail to a location suitable for the new pump and filters.

There are two options for mounting the pump. One is a little more involved and permanent requiring drilling, and the other slightly quicker to install and uninstall, if ever necessary, by way of tough stainless-steel straps. It’s highly recommended that a loose pre-assembly take place in order to pinpoint where the parts will fit best for the specific truck. In our case, the entire set-up had to be placed on the outside of the frame rail, versus the intended inside location, because of clearance problems between the fuel tank and 4WD transfer case. On the plus side, this means quicker and easier filter access, on the down side, it means less enclosed protection. We plan on adding a custom cover fabricated with a steel frame and aluminum panels.

Once the pump is securely mounted, the Flow-MaX Fuel Filter Kit can be assembled and connected after prefilling the filters and lubricating the seals. From here, the fuel feed hose can be routed after tapping into the truck’s steel factory fuel line. Keep in mind, this hard line is the largest in diameter of all the neighboring lines as well as the thickest. It’s going to be a bit of a struggle to get through this line, so you’ll need a quality compact tubing cutter and a place to get comfortable; it will likely take a while to make the cut. After cutting the hard fuel line, finish routing the 3/8-inch hose (installed at the outset of this job) from the OEM filter housing to the outlet barb on the new pump/filter assembly. Another small section of rubber fuel hose will go between the freshly cut hard line and the inlet barb on the new fuel hardware.

Now the harder part: routing the final hose, which is housed deep inside the fuel tank. You guessed it; the fuel tank must be dropped and the one-piece factory fuel pump and sending unit basket removed. This is the part where a vehicle lift will be your best friend, allowing easier access to the two nuts and straps holding the tank into position. A little tip: It may be easier to remove the left rear tire to access the electrical plug and fuel line clips through the side of the bed and frame.

Once the tedious task of removing the tank is completed and the basket on a bench, you’ll need to carefully remove the OEM pump, which is held in place by three black plastic arms that must be broken or cut through. The instructions tell you to use a hacksaw blade to cut through the arms, however that can be quite messy and demand cleaning, which relates to more work and time. We simply opted to carefully use a pair of side cutters. With the original pump out of the way and the prep work complete, a few inches of hose is put into place. Before this step can be completed, the end of the hose resting at the bottom of the pump basket MUST be properly prepared. Following the directions, either a V-notch or angle cut must be carved into the hose, thereby preventing suctioning to the basket. It is absolutely imperative to pay close attention to detail here as your truck can and will run itself out of fuel, and, trust me, you don’t want to remove the tank twice. With all the inner tank modifications to the fuel feed hose completed, the tank is ready to go back in the same way it came out.

The only remaining install step to conquer at this point is some very simple and fairly quick wiring. However, just before the final wiring is handled, we elected to add the aforementioned Low Fuel Pressure Alarm Light into the mix, tying all wiring together at once. This is not a very difficult job, requiring a few minutes to replace the banjo bolt on the top portion of the CP3 rail injection pump with the pressure switch and supplied two sealing washers. There’s only one pump trigger wire to be spliced into from beneath the engine’s Total Integrated Power Module (TIPM) and the power and ground go through a prewired relay and then directly to the battery. The ¼-inch light is routed to a spot on or under the dash and the single, switched 12-volt DC source is connected via a fuse tap. Wiring complete, job complete!

As an engine performance geek, it’s nice to have a seat-of-the-pants feeling that something is happening after installing new power-adding components. But it’s different here. If you’re seeking tons of on-the-fly power from these upgrades, you’ll be disappointed. The Flow-MaX Fuel Lift Pump and Fuel Filter kits aren’t going to deliver any noticeable power to a stock vehicle. Instead you’ll get enough clean, fuel-flow volume from the tank to easily handle any power increases gained by aftermarket upgrades while providing extra protection for costly injectors. Considering most diesel fuel injectors average more than $400 each, I’d call that cheap insurance. The BD Flow-MaX Fuel Lift Pump kit sells for $566; the Fuel Filter kit is $172 and the Low Fuel Pressure Alarm is $74.

BD Diesel Performance

























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Out Yonder in Oregon


It takes a little time to reach this remote part of the West, but visitors to the state’s far-northeastern corner are richly rewarded once they arrive

Our first stop was Baker City (population 9,769), the largest town in the area other than La Grande (population 13,074). When we hopped out of our truck and began walking around, we were surprised by the many graceful
Victorian and
Art Deco buildings that line the city streets. Eye-catching Baker Tower rises nine stories above the town and has been the tallest building in Oregon east of the Cascade Range since it was built in 1929. Nearby, the ornate Geiser Grand Hotel dates back to 1899 and radiates an elegant aura reminiscent of a bygone era.

The Wallowa Lake Tramway ascends 3,700 feet as it zips to the summit of Mount Howard.

The Wallowa Lake Tramway ascends 3,700 feet as it zips to the summit of Mount Howard.

Once a stopping point on the Oregon Short Line Railroad, this understated yet sophisticated city has miraculously resisted change throughout the decades while somehow still keeping up with the times. As appealing as Baker City is, growth is not part of its essence, and the population has hovered between 9,400 and 9,900 residents since 1940. Yet, despite its refusal to allow big-box stores and industry to taint the outer edges of town with commercialism, modern culture is alive and well in the historic downtown. In summertime, when its many restaurants and bistros open their doors and spill out onto the sidewalks with street-side tables and chairs, the vibe in Baker City is decidedly youthful.

Every June the city holds a four-day bicycle stage race in which athletic cyclists vie for top honors in four races in and around town, akin to a mini Tour de France. We joined the throngs of people at outdoor cafés drinking Oregon microbrews and watched the final stage of the race that goes in a circuit around the city streets. A colorful blur of cyclists flew past us over and over, as the announcer excitedly clocked speeds reaching nearly 40 mph in the professional men’s category.

The annual Baker City Cycling Classic is the small-town answer to the Tour de France.

The annual Baker City Cycling Classic is the small-town answer to the Tour de France.

Long before playing host to bicycle races, Baker City made its name with gold mines, and one of the biggest gold nuggets ever found is on display inside the city’s U.S. Bank branch. Weighing in at more than 5 pounds, the fist-size hunk of gold was unearthed by George Armstrong in 1913. It escaped being melted down and is now one of the largest gold nuggets around. Valued at $100,000 in today’s prices, it is worth several times that as a collectible. Our eyes popped as we stared at it in its glass case and imagined what Armstrong must have thought as he carried it on the train in his pocket to nearby Sumpter, where he had it appraised.

Entrepreneur and business magnate Leo Adler was born in Baker City. He launched his career with a walking route delivering the Saturday Evening Post and Ladies’ Home Journal and wound up the head of a massive magazine-reshipping dynasty. The lovely 1889 home he lived in for 94 years until his death at age 98 in 1993 is now a museum. Besides his pretty home, what we appreciated most about this self-made millionaire was the wonderful paved path his foundation built around town. The trail winds along the back of neighborhood streets and is popular not only with local walkers and runners but with deer, too.

Traveling north and east from Baker City, we felt like we had arrived at the end of the world. We visited the tiny village of Joseph, tucked up against the soaring
Wallowa Mountains at the end of a dead-end road. This small community of just 1,000 residents basks in a beautiful place that looks out upon pastoral landscapes filled with classic red barns. Every view is backed by exquisite mountain peaks, and until midsummer these towering pinnacles are crowned with snow.

With a spectacular view, the beach at Wallowa Lake is a great place for sunbathing and swimming.

With a spectacular view, the beach at Wallowa Lake is a great place for sunbathing and swimming.

The village of Joseph is an ideal little walking town, and we enjoyed many a happy stroll along the main drag. Red Horse Coffee Traders is a favorite gathering spot for locals and tourists alike, not only for its welcoming ambience and fresh-roasted coffee, but because it is a reliable place to find an Internet connection in this remote outpost.

On many days we saw an odd four-wheeled contraption sitting on the front lawn of the coffee shop. It had twin recumbent seats, bicycle pedals and thick plastic-rimmed wheels. We got talking with a fellow named Kim Metlen sitting at a folding table nearby, and he explained that this vehicle was a “railrider.” Before long, we had signed up to ride one on a tour he leads every day on the old railroad tracks just outside of town.

Metlen’s Joseph Branch Railriders tour takes a unique approach to making new use of old abandoned railroad tracks. Rather than a rails-to-trails program that removes the rails and ties from the ground, this rail-riding venture leaves the decommissioned railway in place and allows people to ride on the tracks using his custom-built tandem rail cycles. You can see the landscape from reclining side-by-side seats near ground level.

At the appointed hour, we found the four-wheelers lined up at the end of the rail line in Joseph, and two-dozen people showed up to pedal them the 6 miles out to the village of Enterprise. Helmets were required, even though it is nearly impossible to go more than 15 mph, and there is no way the railriders can tip over. Metlen had helmets available for anyone who didn’t bring their own.

For a fun excursion on unused railroad tracks, join the Joseph Branch Railriders tour.

For a fun excursion on unused railroad tracks, join the Joseph Branch Railriders tour.

The views along this trail were lovely, with mountains, valleys and distant farmlands stretching out before us. Each railrider was ridden by two people, and we all went at our own pace. In no time at all, it seemed, we had reached our destination in Enterprise, and everyone hopped out to walk around. The cars are light, so each pair of riders easily picked up theirs to turn it around to face the other way. Then we jumped back on again and rode back to Joseph, watching the mountains grow ever larger as we pedaled.

Stunning Wallowa Lake lies at the south end of Joseph, nestled into the base of the Wallowa Mountains. It is a long and skinny lake that runs north-south, and we drove along the scenic shore-side roads that flank its sides. Wanting to get up into the mountains for a view without too much effort, we took a gondola ride on the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Mount Howard, 8,000 feet above sea level, where the panoramic vistas go on forever.

The tramway was built as part of a planned ski resort, but the ski runs were never created. Today, it makes for an easy way to get to the top of the Wallowa Mountains for a bird’s-eye view of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. At the summit, we took the short hike around the mountain peak and enjoyed a tasty lunch at the restaurant, where we sat on a deck overlooking the lake and watched the gondolas floating up and down the mountainside.

For More Information

Joseph Branch Railriders

Travel Oregon

Valley Bronze Foundry Tours

Wallowa Lake Tramway

Down at Wallowa Lake, we joined sunbathers catching the rays at a beautiful beach on the north end. Both kids and adults braved very cold water to swim, and lots of folks were out on kayaks and paddleboards. A few savvy people put their beach chairs right into the water so they could cool their toes, toss back a cold one and get a tan all at the same time.

At the south end, near the Wallowa Lake Tramway, Wallowa Lake State Park snuggles along the edge of the shore. The park offers swimming, a boat launch and a small marina as well as pretty campsites. This end of the lake has other RV camping options, too, and several private campgrounds are situated right next door to the state park.

Back in the town of Joseph, we were fascinated by the big, beautiful bronze sculptures of Western and Indian themes that decorate many street corners. Valley Bronze of Oregon has its foundry in Joseph, where it offers tours, and there’s a large gallery in town as well. We discovered that the town of Joseph itself has become a mecca for sculptors and other artists of all kinds.

The town is named for Chief Joseph, the leader of the Nez Perce tribe at the time that the Nez Perce were forcibly moved to Idaho from their homeland in the Wallowa Mountains. He was a peaceful and eloquent leader, and his many pleas for fair racial treatment — made shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation — were sadly met with deaf ears. He ultimately led his tribe in a run for Canada in hopes of obtaining political asylum for his people, but the U.S. Army was hot on his heels, and he eventually surrendered.

The Wallowa Mountains create a stunning backdrop to the rolling farmland outside Joseph, Oregon.

The Wallowa Mountains create a stunning backdrop to the rolling farmland outside Joseph, Oregon.

A regal bronze sculpture of Chief Joseph, created by artist Georgia Bunn and cast by Valley Bronze, was purchased by Christy Walton, daughter-in-law of Walmart founder Sam Walton, and donated to the town. Other vivid bronze depictions of Sacagawea, a cowboy on a bucking bronco and a soaring eagle also grace the streets, each surrounded by vibrant, multicolored beds of flowers.

For outdoorsy folks, lots of excellent hiking trails wind through the Wallowa Mountains. Our favorite was the Hurricane Creek Trail a few miles outside of Joseph. After fording a rather intimidating looking stream by walking across an enormous fallen tree, the trail took us through the woods past colorful meadows filled with wild­flowers and backed by mountains. After a bit of a climb, we eventually came to a waterfall.

The trail continued past the falls, but we had gotten so caught up in enjoying the views and taking photographs in the meadows that it was late in the day and we decided to turn back. A quick stop at Terminal Gravity Brewing in Enterprise for delicious local beers and burgers at a picnic table under the shady embrace of some wide trees was the perfect way to end a great day of hiking.


Where to Stay in the Wallowas

Although it’s sparsely populated, the route from Baker City to Joseph in northeastern Oregon has plenty of places for intrepid RVers.

Mountain View RV Park (Good Sam Park)
541-523-4824 |

The end of another spectacular day at a tranquil campsite in northeastern Oregon.

The end of another spectacular day at a tranquil campsite in northeastern Oregon.

Oregon Trails West RV Park (Good Sam Park)
541-523-3236 |

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
541-523-6391 |

Log House RV Park and Campground
877-426-4027 |

Five Peaks RV Park
877-426-402, 541-432-4605 |

Mountain View RV Park
541-432-2982 |

Park at the River
541-432-8800 |

Wallowa Lake State Park
541-432-4185 |

Wallowa River RV Park
541-886-7002 |

Wallowa Valley Stay N’ Wash
541-886-6944 |





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Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads


Turn back the clock to a quieter time on 117 bucolic backcountry drives spanning nearly 700 miles in the upper Midwest


Smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin, a dozen miles south of U.S. Highway 8, linking the state with Minnesota on the west and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the east, lies what seems at first to be just another nondescript county road. It’s a gravel band laid out over hills and through valleys sculpted by glaciers, winding its way past woodlands, fields and a scattering of lakes — a landscape that offers a sense of embarking on a more relaxing journey to the uncluttered and less hectic northern reaches of the upper Midwest in years gone by.

The commemorative marker along the route attests to the fact that there is indeed something special about this particular roadway. The 5-mile backcountry lane is R-1, the first Wisconsin stretch to be officially designated a Rustic Road back in 1975. This year the state’s Rustic Roads program celebrates 40 years of preserving the state’s remaining “scenic, lightly traveled country roads for the leisurely enjoyment of bikers, hikers and motorists,” as described by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Forty years after designating the first Rustic Road, Wisconsin continues to preserve its roads less traveled. R-56 is among several country lanes that wind through Amish communities scattered throughout the central part of the state.Photos By Tom Watson And Courtesy Craig Swedberg, Wisconsin Departments Of Tourism And Transportation, And Door County Visitors Bureau.

Forty years after designating the first Rustic Road, Wisconsin continues to preserve its roads less traveled. R-56 is among several country lanes that wind through Amish communities scattered throughout the central part of the state. Photos by Tom Watson and Courtesy Craig Swedberg, Wisconsin Departments of Tourism and Transportation, and Door County Visitors Bureau.

Currently, 117 Rustic Roads make up the network that includes 669 miles of routing through 59 counties, from the southern shores of Lake Superior to the Illinois border, and from the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers along the state’s western border east to Milwaukee and Door County along the shores of Lake Michigan. Each route is numbered in the order it was designated and is preceded with an “R” prefix. Road surfaces can be paved, dirt or gravel with a maximum speed limit of 45 mph, although some are restricted to only 25 mph.

Divided into four regions, the Rustic Roads network showcases Wisconsin’s nature, history and culture along quaint and quiet country lanes. These local roads reveal the personality of each area and collectively express the character of the state. Here’s a snapshot of some memorable off-the-beaten-path drives in each region.


Bound on the north by Lake Superior and running along the St. Croix River on its western border, the Northwest region is home to R-1, the state’s first Rustic Road, and R-100, the 100th road added since the program began.

From Dodge County to Door County: R-106 runs through scenic farmland.

From Dodge County to Door County: R-106 runs through scenic farmland.

Following a section of the Flambeau Trail, a transportation route used by Native Americans and early fur traders, R-100 winds northward through 13.5 miles of beautiful backcountry forests, lakes and waterways. Like many routes in this neck of the woods, it also offers the promise of a glimpse of the area’s wildlife. Dense stands of hardwood forests guarantee brilliant displays of fall colors along this paved stretch that runs between Mercer and the Michigan border.

Only 2 miles long, R-62 serves as the only access to Timms Hill County Park, Wisconsin’s highest point of land. Other scenic routes include a parallel lane along the Red Cedar River (R-89) south of Menomonie, a primitive stretch cut by small country streams (R-51) and a bucolic country road (R-92) whose shoulders are abloom with trilliums and other wildflowers each spring. Several more sylvan corridors ribbon through the north-country setting of the Chequamegon National Forest, many of which intersect regional hiking trails.

Historic buildings and sites such as old churches, schoolhouses and ethnic settlements are common along these routes throughout the state. In the Northwest region, the Smith Rapids Covered Bridge, one of two remaining covered bridges in Wisconsin, and a restored 1876 logging dam are key landmarks on R-105, northwest of Rhinelander.


Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

Forests of conifers and hardwoods blanket the landscape between Wisconsin’s northern border with Michigan and the Door County peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Two state biking trails cross Rustic Roads in this section: the Red Cedar Bike Trail (R-107) and the Bear Skin State Trail (R-58).

Stone and arch bridges highlight the Northeast region’s rich heritage of early settlements and developing agriculture, particularly in the Fox River Valley area just outside Appleton. Some of the vintage buildings featured along these routes include R-53’s old silo and “century farm” — farmland owned by a single family for more than 100 years — reminders of the area’s agricultural history.

A couple dozen miles northwest of Marinette lies the southern end of the longest Rustic Road in Wisconsin. Coursing its way north where it links up with Highway 8,

Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (left) is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

Access to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (left) is through R-103’s lush hardwood canopy (far left) and a short drive beyond the northern end of R-101, both of which parallel the waterway.

R-32 takes travelers through a meandering 37.1-mile northern landscape of granite boulders and outcroppings, state forests and county parks. The route offers several opportunities to enjoy vistas of the Peshtigo and Thunder rivers and other flowages.
A bit farther north lies a 30-plus-mile loop of northern backcountry routes that make up R-74. Following streams and waterways in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, including the Popple River (a state-designated Wild River), this rustic gravel lane has an almost primeval feel.

Another Northeast highlight is the network of routes within Door County, all within sight of or in close proximity to scenic Lake Michigan. In Sturgeon Bay, R-77 skirts the shoreline for 3.5 miles, ending at a Coast Guard station and lighthouse at its southern end. Farther up the peninsula between Moonlight Bay and North Bay, R-38 brings the Cana Island Lighthouse into view. Its sister road, R-39, features the Toft Point State Natural Area and Ridges Sanctuary that showcase a variety of rare native plants.


Lake Winnebago marks the northern extent of this corner of the state that includes Milwaukee and Madison, making it the most populated of the four Rustic Roads regions and therefore the one with the most parks and historic areas.
Several sites predate the Civil War. R-5 follows the route of the territorial road laid out in 1840. Cold Springs Cemetery along R-88 dates from the same period. Just south of Madison, R-19 passes a labor farm deeded in 1846, its documentation signed by President James Polk.


The Rustic Road outside the city of Portage has the distinction of being the shortest in the system. Less than a mile long, R-69 follows the Old Agency House Road. The house itself, built in 1832, sits adjacent to the Portage Canal, a system of locks and canals constructed to connect the Fox River with the Wisconsin River and provide continuous river traffic from Green Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Remains of the Old Fort Winnebago Locks structure are still visible from the edge of this Rustic Road.

Parklands and other natural areas are common throughout the network. In the Southeast, a section of R-52, a half-hour’s drive north of downtown Milwaukee, runs adjacent to Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area, called “one of the largest and most biologically diverse wetland areas in Wisconsin” by the state’s Department of Transportation. Farther west, an opportunity to view the famous sandhill cranes of Horicon Marsh is enhanced by access to the Bud Cook Hiking Trail beyond the West Point Road segment of R-106.

Fields of wildflowers and a diverse array of upland birds make R-72 west of Oshkosh a popular 3.1-mile nature drive routed through the middle of 270 acres of Nature Conservancy land.


The Southwest’s 70-some miles of Rustic Roads hold their own against more than 600 miles in the other three regions. Only 12 Rustic Roads are represented in this region that lies along Wisconsin’s western border and the Mississippi River. Despite that proximity, R-99, 33 miles south of Prairie du Chien, is the only route on the western border with a segment that follows the river.

Cana Island Road, designated R-38, passes through boreal forest to the island’s 1870 light tower.

Cana Island Road, designated R-38, passes through boreal forest to the island’s 1870 light tower.

A bit farther north near La Crosse, R-26 offers a commanding view of the Mississippi River Valley from Brinkman Ridge. R-21, about 15 miles southwest of Baraboo, skirts Natural Bridges State Park, the oldest primitive human site in the upper Midwest and the location of Wisconsin’s largest natural arch.

This is a geologically diverse region where deep valleys, bluffs, rock outcroppings and rolling farmland create a patchwork quilt of landscapes. It’s an unglaciated “driftless” area with boulder-strewn fields, sandy soil and glacial moraine, visual reminders that this part of the state wasn’t affected by the last Ice Age.

One of the most spectacular scenic areas is the area around Wildcat Mountain State Park. R-56 winds through the countryside just west of the park’s towering rock formations and high ridgelines with panoramic views of woodlands and farms. Most roadsides are bursting with blooming wildflowers in the spring and broad expanses of brilliant colors in the fall.

R-70 and R-75 north of Platteville pass through a region settled by German and Welsh immigrants in the mid- to late 1800s. It’s not unusual to come upon a horse-drawn wagon here and along other routes, as several Rustic Roads travel through small Amish settlements scattered across the state.

Just north of La Crosse, another unique Southwest road is 2.7-mile R-64 that reaches the entrance to McGilvray Road. Known locally as Seven Bridges Road and accessible only on foot, the historic thoroughfare’s seven bowstring-arch bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Follow the Signs

rustic-road-signRustic Roads are marked with the network’s distinctive brown-and-gold signs. A placard below each sign shows the R-prefix route number. Most routes are posted well in advance of junctions or intersections, while a few have to be sought out. Segments tend to run less than a half-dozen miles long and are typically accessible within a short distance of a major highway. While some of the roads are dirt or gravel, all are well maintained and nonthreatening to all but the largest vehicles.

Each Rustic Road has its own personality, its own natural and manmade attractions, and its own snippets of local and regional history. Linking to a slower paced yesteryear, the network of Rustic Roads provides a colorful and revealing tapestry stitched with decorative, nostalgic threads. They are quiet county roads away from mainstream traffic and cluttered development to enjoy at an unhurried pace.


If You Go

Camping at High Cliff State Park.

Camping at High Cliff State Park.

Many Wisconsin Rustic Roads are within a few miles of commercial RV parks and public campgrounds at state parks and forests, if they don’t skirt one directly. The following websites offer a broad range of camping options and other helpful information.

Good Sam Camping

Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners

Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus

Wisconsin Department of Tourism

Wisconsin State Park System



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Big Family Fun


The Ford Expedition EL and Denali Lite 2611BH travel trailer have more than enough room for your adventures

We’ve all heard the popular expression “Go big or go home.” But if you have a large family and you’re passionate about RVing, you pretty much have to go big or stay home. Finding the right setup to accommodate your own Brady Bunch used to require a station wagon or van, a travel TL-testtrailer and a couple of extra tents, with the inevitable quarreling that would ensue about who was going to sleep where. Thankfully, the RV industry has addressed this need with a wide range of so-called bunkhouse models that not only are equipped with bunk beds but are designed from the very beginning for family comfort with larger sofas and dinettes that also turn into beds. Pair one of these trailers with a three-row SUV, and you have the makings for big family fun.

The bunkhouse features power-operated bunks and a large rear cargo door for loading bikes and recreational gear.

The bunkhouse features power-operated bunks and a large rear cargo door for loading bikes and recreational gear.

To get the party started, we selected Ford’s recently updated, top-of-the-line 2015 Expedition EL Platinum and hitched it up to a 2016 Dutchmen Denali Lite 2611BH travel trailer. The Expedition EL, which offers three-row seating and room for up to eight, has a longer wheelbase than the standard Expedition (131 inches versus 119 inches) and more cargo space. In fact, with up to 130.8 cubic feet of real estate available, the EL is best in class — but, more importantly, it still offers usable storage when the third-row seat is up. That’s not something every three-row SUV can claim.

Plus, when equipped with the towing package (standard in the Platinum), this big ute can tow up to 9,100 pounds, more than enough to contend with the Denali Lite’s claimed dry weight of 7,019 pounds. And though the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) is 9,680 pounds, that leaves 2,081 pounds of cargo capacity with water and propane onboard before exceeding the Expedition’s maximum towing capacity. Just remember that if you pack the Expedition with as many people as seatbelts, you need to be aware of all that passenger weight, as the Expedition’s gross combination weight rating (gcwr) is part of what determines its tow rating.

The L-shaped galley countertop provides plenty of room for food prep.

The L-shaped galley countertop provides plenty of room for food prep.

Before hitching up, we spent several days using the Expedition EL as a family vehicle. Living in the greater Los Angeles area, driving something this large on crowded streets and highways, not to mention densely populated parking lots, could pose a problem, but Ford did an admirable job of keeping this SUV’s considerable bulk manageable. Mechanically speaking, the standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine, six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission with manual mode, quick steering, powerful brakes and composed suspension combine to make the extra-long Expo feel much smaller than it really is. Add the standard blind-spot info system (which incorporates rear-cross-traffic monitoring in addition to blind-spot monitoring), a standard rear backup camera and front/rear parking sensors, and it’s hard to make a mistake as long as you’re paying attention.

The Expedition’s 2015 facelift was a vast improvement. This new Expedition looks much more athletic and chiseled than its predecessor, which now looks bulbous by comparison. Resplendent in gorgeous Ruby Red paint and optional polished 22-inch aluminum wheels (20-inchers are standard in the Platinum grade), the test Expedition had an air of elegance that continued once inside the expansive cabin. Perforated leather driver and front-passenger seats with double French stitching and 10-way power adjustability are both heated and ventilated, and although we had no occasion to use the heating feature, the ventilation worked well to keep our backs dry when entering the sun-soaked vehicle. Getting comfortable behind the wheel is easy for drivers of any size, thanks to power-adjustable pedals and a steering column that offers power-tilt and telescoping functions.

The forward bedroom is small but comfortable. The U-shaped dinette has room for four to six.

The forward bedroom is small but comfortable. The U-shaped dinette has room for four to six.

Front and center is a large touch-screen display that offers entertainment, phone, voice-activated navigation (part of Equipment Group 600A) and climate-control functions, as well as a rearview camera display. The screen is large, clear and easy to read, and there are redundant controls for volume, tuning, media and climate. But it doesn’t end there. The steering wheel features buttons for cruise and Bluetooth phone functions, while a multi­directional control lets you cycle through various readouts on the display to the left of the speedometer. Ordinarily, this defaults to a small tachometer, but start pushing buttons and you can get readouts for trip/fuel, towing, off-road, settings, digital speed, oil pressure, oil temperature, transmission oil temperature and more. Once you get used to scrolling through the various menus, you can do it quickly and find what you want pretty easily.

The comfortable couch looks good and converts into a bed.

The comfortable couch looks good and converts into a bed.

In a family vehicle, there has to be plenty of room to put stuff, and the Expedition has two cup holders next to the shifter and two more at the rear of the center console for second-row passengers. The center console is large and deep, and features two USB ports, a 12-volt DC port and an SD-card slot. There’s also a handy pouch so you won’t lose small items in the compartment’s expanse, as well as slots for change and other small things. The lid is padded and comfortable, as are the armrests.

Second-row passengers won’t suffer. These seats offer a heat function, independent climate controls on the back of the second-row console, and both 12-volt DC and 120-volt AC outlets to power accessories. Air conditioning is ducted through the ceiling so everyone can remain cool and collected, even on the hottest days. The third row, as in most SUVs, is best suited for kids, or smaller adults on shorter trips. To access it, pull the strap at the second-row headrest to fold it down, pull a handle at the base of the seat to fold the seatback forward, then pull another strap at the back of the seat to tumble the entire assembly. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you understand the concept, it goes pretty quickly.

Denali-ExpeditionFloorplanLoading gear for a family trip is easy in the Expedition EL Platinum. The power rear liftgate opens almost silently with two quick pushes on the key fob, and we found the cargo area behind the third row large enough to stow luggage for five adults. If more room is required, and you can sacrifice the third row, a simple push of a button folds those seatbacks down.

Overall, we found very little not to like about this rig, except for the expansive use of chrome interior trim. Sure, it looks nice — but on a bright day, the many chrome flourishes blind you from almost every direction. There is chrome trim on the steering wheel, around every air-conditioning vent, on/around the shift handle, around the cup holders and on the door handles. It would be nice if chrome were a stand-alone option on the Platinum, as its oppressive brilliance was the only thing we disliked in this interior.

Denali-ExpeditionSpecsThere were other minor annoyances. We don’t understand the point of push-button start when you still have to pull the key fob out of your pocket to open the passenger doors — especially considering that the liftgate can be opened with a button on its handle with the key fob in your pocket. Either make the whole vehicle hands-free or don’t bother. And, as is common with vehicles with a system such as this, the vehicle sends an alert when you walk away from it with the engine running and the fob in your pocket — except, instead of a quiet beep, it issues an annoying full-blast honk.

When it came to attaching the trailer, however, we found that we couldn’t ask for a better towing companion. Once you specify Limited grade, you get the Heavy Duty Trailer Tow Package, which includes a Class IV receiver, wiring harness with four- and seven-pin connectors, auxiliary transmission cooler, heavy-duty radiator and an integrated trailer-brake controller. The engine has more than enough power to get the combo moving, and once under way, the ride is limo quiet. Turbo lag is noticeable at times, and the transmission can be lazy, especially when shifting between drive and reverse in a U-turn situation. Overall, however, this is a tow vehicle that will inspire confidence, and its extra length kept the nearly 34-foot trailer very stable, even with moderate side winds.

The Denali Lite 2611BH is a new floorplan for Dutchmen, and a well conceived one at that. As mentioned earlier, bunkhouse models are becoming increasingly popular, but a lot of interesting details make this model particularly family-friendly. For example, the rear bunks are not fixed; their height is power adjustable, similar to what you would find in a toy hauler. This is a pretty cool feature, because you can raise them all the way up, open the rear cargo door and have room for bikes or other items — sort of like a mini-toy hauler (but not for motorized toys).

Lower the bunks and you have enough height for two bunks with two sleepers on each, and if need be, Dutchmen supplies another thin mattress that can go on the floor for a triple bunk. The mattresses are thin and firm, but have a nice plush upholstery that should make them reasonably comfortable and warm in the colder months. There’s also a ladder for the kids to get up to the upper bunk and privacy curtains so they can get some shut-eye while Mom and Dad are still up. There’s even a location for an LCD television that is viewable only from the lower bunk, which may cause sibling rivalry but is a nice option, nonetheless.

The bath is thoughtfully placed right next to the bunk area and offers kid-friendly features like a bathtub with a curtain and separate entry door so kids can use the bathroom without tracking dirt, water, etc. through the living area. The toilet and a corner lavatory with mirror occupy the remaining space. There isn’t much storage here otherwise, but adjacent to the bathroom is a good-size wardrobe with room for hanging clothes and three large drawers beneath.

The bathroom has thoughtful touches like a bathtub with a curtain and a separate entry door.

The bathroom has thoughtful touches like a bathtub with a curtain and a separate entry door.

On the street side in the large slideout (the only one in the unit) is a big U-shaped dinette that can easily seat four and perhaps six, depending on the size of the family. The table is supported by two posts, so it’s nice and stable, and like all good travel trailer dinettes, it turns into a bed for two more sleepers. If you’re keeping track, that’s as many as eight smallish overnight guests so far, but we’re not done yet. Next to the dinette in the same slide is a 62-inch sofa that is not only comfortable but converts into another bed for two more guests.

Across from the living-room slideout is the kitchen, which is semi-L-shaped and offers plenty of space to work with. Laminate countertops designed to look like granite are functional and attractive, and play nicely with the Beauflor faux-plank flooring and dark furniture, a popular scheme these days. The sink and faucet are plastic, but the sink cover is genuine wood, which looks nice and can double as a cutting board. There are cabinets above, two large drawers below and a couple of cubbies, plus a large door underneath that will accommodate a normal-size kitchen trash can. On the other side of the kitchen L in the entryway are two more large drawers for food storage or anything else you might need quick access to.

A familiar three-burner Atwood stove/oven provides cooking heat, and for quick meals there’s a small High Pointe microwave oven mounted above. An 8-cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator with a wood front and generously proportioned pantry with two drawers underneath round out the chef’s quarters.

The Expedition EL interior is well finished, and the center stack is easy to navigate, thanks to its large touch screen and redundant controls.

The Expedition EL interior is well finished, and the center stack is easy to navigate, thanks to its large touch screen and redundant controls.

The forward entertainment center has a 32-inch LED HD Furrion television and features a large cubby to the left with a shelf in the middle. A Furrion radio/DVD player does the job and also operates exterior speakers located underneath a large awning with exterior lighting. There are cabinets underneath as well for additional storage. The living area is light and bright, courtesy of the LED lighting, large windows and a skylight/vent above the kitchen. Our only complaint here is that, on a hot day with the sun overhead, you’ll get cooked while making lunch. Plan on a skylight cover, and you’ll be fine.

Spoiler alert: You won’t be blown away by the forward bedroom. It has enough room to sleep on the queen-size bed, which, of course, is the bottom-line function of a bedroom — but that’s about it. There is a tall, narrow mirrored wardrobe on the left and a mirrored cabinet on the right (each with a drawer underneath), plus more cabinets overhead. The trailer we sampled had no TV, but there is a supplied mounting location on the forward wall that would put a TV in perfect view for watching from bed. A nice added touch is the sliding bedroom door, which offers more privacy and quiet than a curtain.

 Chrome trim looks good but can be blinding on bright days. Leather seats offer power adjustment, heating and ventilation.

Chrome trim looks good but can be blinding on bright days. Leather seats offer power adjustment, heating and ventilation.

Outside, the Denali Lite has a large pass-through storage compartment up front, which is fairly common on today’s travel trailers. What is uncommon, however, is the placement of the utilities. The dump valves, power inlet, city-water connection and a port for the exterior spray hose are at the left rear of the trailer (where they should be), but the cable connection is in the front of the slideout, and the black-tank flush is on the opposite side.

Quirks notwithstanding, the Denali Lite 2611BH is a well-executed floorplan that can sleep as many as a dozen (albeit small) people, if need be, and when paired with the Expedition EL, makes for easy travel to wherever your family adventures take you.

More Info


Dutchmen ManufacturingDenali-3
574-537-0600 |

Ford Motor Company





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Video Review: Quick Setup Canopy


Trailer Life’s Bob Dawson walks you through a video review of the Quick-Set Escape, a no-assembly, canopy/screen-room from Clam.


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In Search of Giants


Visitors come from all over the world to hike through California’s primeval forests and stand in awe beneath canopies of ancient redwoods and giant sequoias, the tallest trees on earth


Among California’s unique attractions are the world’s tallest trees, massive conifers that can live for thousands of years. The coast redwood grows along the state’s northwestern edge from the Oregon border south to Big Sur near Monterey. The giant sequoia, also known as the Sierra redwood, grows inland. Although the coast redwood stretches taller (to 379 feet, higher than the Statue of Liberty), it’s smaller in diameter (to 22 feet), with bark averaging 12 inches in thickness. Its inland cousin tops out at 311 feet with a 40-foot-diameter and bark that measures up to 31 inches in thickness.

What follows are some of the best spots for communing with California’s towering trees and a selection of RV parks and public campgrounds. State park campground information
Video-Buttoncan be found at, and reservations can be made at Reservations for national park and forest service campgrounds can be made at Websites are listed for nearby commercial RV parks.


Most of California’s coast redwoods can be found within 50 miles of the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and the Oregon border. Rain, fog and moderate temperatures contribute to their survival.

Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley

A national monument since 1908, Muir Woods is the closest place to San Francisco to view significant groves of coast redwoods. Muir Woods has two groves that are easily accessible via a well-maintained trail that is suitable for the handicapped. Parking spots fill up quickly, so get there before the 8 a.m. opening. A seasonal weekend and holiday shuttle stops at a parking lot just off the State Route 1 exit from northbound U.S. Route 101, but that can fill up, too. Leave the trailer at your campground, as vehicles over 35 feet are prohibited on the access road.

A giant uprooted tree in Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

A giant uprooted tree in Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

Camping: Muir Woods has no on-site camping. A good option for RVs up to 32 feet is Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Lagunitas, 26 miles distant. For RVs up to 31 feet, Sonoma Coast State Beach, about 65 miles from Muir Woods, has several campgrounds. My favorite is Bodega Dunes with 98 sites, no hookups, hot showers, flush toilets and a dump station. Nearby Bodega Bay RV Park( has 73 full- and partial-hookup sites for vehicles up to 60 feet, free cable and Wi-Fi, a dump station and restrooms with showers. A closer option is San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA (, 34 miles away, with 312 mostly shaded sites for rigs up to 60 feet, 20/30/50-amp hookups, some pull-throughs, a dump station, sewer service, cable TV, Wi-Fi, a dog park and a heated pool.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and Austin Creek State Recreation Area, Guerneville

This 700-acre park complex is a popular place for hikers and people seeking easy access to the Russian River for kayaking and summer fun. The park has two significant redwoods, the 310-foot Parson Jones Tree and the 1,400-year-old Colonel Armstrong Tree. Each fall (September 12 and 13 this year), the town plays host to the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival, which attracts well-known talent, with much of the seating in kayaks and canoes floating in the river.

Camping: RV camping is prohibited at the park complex. Good options are to camp and leave your trailer at nearby Samuel P. Taylor State Park or Sonoma Coast State Beach, both mentioned above. Just 9 miles west in Duncan Mills is Casini Ranch Family Campground ( with 225 sites near the Russian River, including some pull-throughs, some with 30-amp hookups and all with access to restrooms with showers, a dump station and laundry facilities, plus boat and canoe rentals.

Hendy Woods State Park, Philo

Trails lead through ancient groves in Hendy Woods State Park and past a giant uprooted tree in Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

Trails lead through ancient groves in Hendy Woods State Park and past a giant uprooted tree in Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

If wine tasting and camping sound like a match made in heaven, this park should be on your list. Located in the Anderson Valley wine district, Hendy Woods has two virgin redwood groves within its 845-acre boundaries. The microclimate here especially suits the pinot noir grape, featured in nearby wineries that host the annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival each May.

Camping: With 92 sites, the park campground is a pleasantly shaded retreat, and being inland can be a nice alternative to oceanside parks that are often fogged in. Trailers are limited to 35 feet. About 33 miles to the west near the village of Mendocino are some of the best state parks in Northern California, including Van Damme State Park, with 64 sites for trailers up to 35 feet, full-service restrooms and a dump station. Located 3.5 miles from Mendocino, Caspar Beach RV Park ( is a Good Sam Park with full hookups, cable, Wi-Fi and beach access.

Richardson Grove State Park, Garberville

Eight miles south of Garberville, you can leave Route 101 and drive the old Highway 101, which predates the freeway, for 31 miles on a stretch aptly nicknamed Avenue of the Giants. Richardson Grove is the first park you encounter featuring significant old-growth coast redwood groves, many accessible by just pulling off the road and gawking. Watch for signs indicating the recommended Exhibit and Settler’s trails.
Camping: Plenty of on-site camping is available for trailers shorter than 24 feet. Garberville’s Richardson Grove Campground and RV Park ( has 45 sites with full or partial hookups, including 10 pull-throughs. Amenities include restrooms with showers, groceries, a dump station, laundry facilities and Wi-Fi.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Myers Flat

This 51,000-acre state park is the largest in California catering to redwood trees and their admirers. It hosts one of the state’s largest groves, Rockefeller Forest, and has many trees exceeding 300 feet. Hiking trails abound, ranging from quick ½-mile jaunts, like the must-do Founders Grove Nature Trail, to those best suited to the truly fit. One of the attractions is Giant Tree, and at 354 feet in height and 53 feet in circumference, it is aptly named. As a bonus, the Eel River runs through the area, known in non-drought times as a prime salmon and steelhead fishery.

Hiking through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Hiking through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Camping: Three campgrounds at the state park cater to RVers with trailers up to 24 feet. Beware of a tight squeeze between two trees on the drive to Albee Creek if you’re towing anything wider than 8 feet. For bigger rigs, Giant Redwoods RV and Camp (, a Good Sam Park in Myers Flat, has 30/50-amp sites, including some pull-throughs, plus a dump station, laundry facilities, groceries and free Wi-Fi.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick

This park is at or near the top of my list of favorite places to camp. It’s a 14,000-acre playground with more than 300 old-growth redwood groves, 10 miles of beautiful, unspoiled beach, 75 miles of trails and as many Roosevelt elk as campers. Start by driving the 10-mile Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, which parallels Route 101, and then double-back so you can wander on foot or bike. Hike to the aptly named Big Tree — 300-plus-feet tall, 21 feet in diameter and 1,500 years in age. Fog is possible, particularly in the morning.

Camping: The state park has two campgrounds, Elk Prairie and Golf Bluffs Beach. Nirvana for campers and elk, Elk Prairie has 76 sites for RVs up to 27 feet. The first-come, first-served Gold Bluffs Beach Campground has 26 sites for RVs up to 24 feet and an 8-foot-width limit. Options for those with longer rigs are just 10 miles north in Klamath. Klamath River RV Park ( is a Good Sam Park with 30-amp hookups and some pull-throughs. Amenities include a laundry, RV supplies, a boat dock and Wi-Fi. Another Klamath Good Sam Park, Mystic Forest RV Park (, has 20/30-amp campsites and some pull-throughs, plus laundry facilities, groceries and Wi-Fi.

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Crescent City


Tall Tales: The National Park Service and California State Parks together manage 133,000 coastal acres known as Redwood National and State Parks, a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. Within the collective boundaries are Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks and Redwood National Park, a quartet of nature preserves that protect 45 percent of the remaining old-growth forests of coast redwoods. On the other side of the state, jointly administered Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks host the world’s largest groves of giant sequoias, and Yosemite National Park is endowed with three impressive sequoia groves, including one with 500 mature trees.

This 6,400-acre park was logged in the 1920s, and about half is old-growth coast redwoods with the rest second-growth redwoods and other species. The park has 8 miles of Pacific shoreline, so it suits folks who like to leave the forest and watch the waves. Much of the coast is steep, but Damnation Trail provides good access, and Wilson Beach offers a half-mile of sand.

Camping: The park’s campground has 107 campsites for RVs up to 31 feet. The park is open year-round, but the campground usually closes in winter; check before you visit. Two RV parks can be found within a couple of miles in Crescent City. Hiouchi RV Resort (, a Good Sam Park, has with 90 sites and 30/50-amp hookups, a dump station, a laundry and showers. Crescent City Redwoods KOA ( has 41 sites, including some pull-throughs, and 30/50-amp hookups. Amenities include a dump station, a laundry and Wi-Fi.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Crescent City

Named for one of the famed mountain men who opened the area to exploration, this excellent 10,000-acre state park includes two significant groves of coast redwoods, the 5,000-acre National Tribute Grove and the smaller but equally impressive Stout Grove. Close to the town of Crescent City, the park is almost in Oregon. Hiking trails abound, and I highly recommend driving the 6.9-mile Howland Hill Auto Tour, a well-maintained dirt-and-gravel road that has some twists and turns but is negotiable by vehicles that fit the campground parameters of a 31-foot limit. Nearby is the Smith River National Scenic Byway, which tracks one of the state’s few free-flowing (undammed) rivers.

Camping: The state park campground has more than 100 campsites, some of which accommodate larger RVs up to 45 feet. The campground has restrooms with showers and a dump station. Nearby RV parks include Hiouchi RV Resort and Crescent City Redwoods KOA, both mentioned above.


The area around Santa Cruz has several notable coast redwood groves and the added benefit of proximity to such popular destinations as Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The following two state parks are definitely worth a visit, though they do not have the prolonged scenic drives of other redwood areas to the north, and their campgrounds are limited to smaller RVs. Plenty of nearby commercial RV parks make up the difference for those traveling with larger rigs.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Boulder Creek

California’s oldest state park, this 18,000-acre reserve has the largest stand of redwoods in this part of the state and is known for its variety of waterfalls. An impressive 80 miles of trails traverse the park, including the must-hike Redwood Nature Trail, just over half a mile.

Camping: The park’s campground has 31 sites for trailers up to 24 feet. A Good Sam Park in Felton, 23 miles away, Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort ( has 30/50-amp sites, including some pull-throughs and big-rig sites. The park also has Wi-Fi, cable, laundry facilities and recreational amenities.

The narrow-gauge Roaring Camp Railroad takes visitors on a one-hour tour from Felton through the redwood forest.

The narrow-gauge Roaring Camp Railroad takes visitors on a one-hour tour from Felton through the redwood forest.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton

This 4,650-acre park in the Santa Cruz Mountains has several old-growth and second-growth redwood groves. With 15 miles of trails, the park is best suited to folks who enjoy hiking and horseback riding, as well as fishing for steelhead on the San Lorenzo River. The Roaring Camp Railroad takes passengers from Felton through the park’s forests.

Camping: The park campground has 103 sites for RVs up to 33 feet. Outside Capitola, New Brighton State Beach has an excellent campground with 82 sites for RVs up to 30 feet, some with 30-amp hookups. Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort, noted previously, is only 7 miles away.


Until now the focus has been on Northern California’s coast redwoods. Giant sequoia trees live inland in a narrow 60-mile strip along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range. They are best viewed in the following three state and national parks.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Arnold

This is a prime spot for viewing giant sequoias. Within the 6,500-acre boundaries are two large groves. The less ambitious can explore the North Grove Loop, with 150 sequoias within 1.5 miles. For the more energetic, the 5-mile hike to the South Grove is a fine one, with relatively little elevation gain and shade most of the way. The park’s two largest trees, the Agassiz Tree and the Palace Hotel Tree, are on short, well-marked spurs off this trail. Nearby is Columbia State Historic Park, a restored gold mining town.

Camping: Campgrounds within the state park include the North Grove Campground and Oak Hollow Campground, both limited to RVs up to 30 feet. This area is in California’s gold country with no shortage of RV accommodations. Just down the road, Golden Pines RV Resort and Campground ( is a Good Sam Park with 30-amp full-hookup sites, including some pull-throughs, a dump station and a heated pool.

Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Village

Must-see tree: The patriarch of Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove is the Grizzly Giant, an 1,800-year-old giant sequoia.

Must-see tree: The patriarch of Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove is the Grizzly Giant, an 1,800-year-old giant sequoia.

Yosemite is home to three significant groves of giant sequoias. Two are close to Crane Flat Campground, only 5 miles from the park’s Big Oak Flat Entrance off State Route 120. The other, the Mariposa Grove, is close to the Wawona area of the park, just inside the South Entrance off State Route 41. All of the groves can be reached on foot less than a mile from the parking lots. The Mariposa Grove contains what is thought to be Yosemite’s oldest sequoia, the 1,800-plus-year-old Grizzly Giant. For the next couple of years, an extensive restoration project will limit access to the Mariposa Grove, so be sure to check the park’s website for the latest visitor information.

Camping: You could write a book on camping in Yosemite National Park, but two campgrounds are best for seeing giant sequoias. Five miles from the Big Oak Flat Entrance, Crane Flat Campground has 166 sites for RVs up to 35 feet and trailers up to 27 feet, and is close to two redwood groves. Wawona Campground has 93 sites for RVs up to 35 feet with the same amenities. It is just inside the park’s South Entrance and close to the Mariposa Grove. Reservations at all Yosemite campgrounds should be made well in advance, particularly during summer. Nearby RV parks include a couple of Good Sam Parks. Twenty miles from the South Entrance, Sierra Meadows RV Park ( in Ahwahnee has pull-through and back-in 50-amp sites and access to a golf course and swimming pool. High Sierra RV Park ( in nearby Oakhurst has 30/50-amp sites, some pull-throughs, and a dump station and laundry facilities.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Three Rivers

A little further afield, these two national parks are managed as one and are home to some 75 groves of giant sequoias, including the world’s largest by volume, the General Sherman Tree. Sequoia is the second oldest national park in the country, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year; Kings Canyon turns 75. If that weren’t enough, the west slope of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states, is within Sequoia’s borders. And if all that real estate is too confining for you, nearby Sequoia National Forest contains the world’s greatest concentration of giant sequoia groves, including 33 groves in Giant Sequoia National Monument. There are several points of entry, but the epicenter is Grant Grove Village, site of the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, reached via State Route 180 east of Fresno.

Camping: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have a multitude of campgrounds, generally with size limits of either 22 or 30 feet. If you have a smaller rig and enter at the Big Stump Entrance, I suggest camping that first night at Azalea, Sunset or Crystal Springs campground. Then drive the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway and camp at Sentinel, Sheep Creek, Canyon View or Moraine. In neighboring Sequoia National Forest, Princess Campground has 90 sites, including some for RVs up to 50 feet, near the paved, accessible hiking trail through Indian Basin Grove. In Fresno, there’s Blackstone North RV Park (, a Good Sam Park with large 30/50-amp sites, cable, Wi-Fi, restrooms and a laundry facility.




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Roughing It Easy




The Nash 22H and Chevy Tahoe LT not only make extended dry camping possible, but also enjoyable


It goes without saying that trailers are designed for the great outdoors, but these days, getting away from it all has a different meaning than it once did. Where primitive camping used to be the only choice in many areas, now we can be spoiled by full hookups and a variety of amenities, depending on where Video-Buttonwe choose to stay. While this kind of convenience is great for a lot of RVers, the side effect is that most travel trailers are no longer really designed for extended use in remote areas. They usually have only one battery, which goes dead after one or two days, and they don’t come with, or even offer, a generator in most instances. And since they usually spend their time on the road and on smooth, level campsites, their suspension and chassis aren’t designed for roughing it, either. As a result, many RVers must invest in some expensive upgrades to make a trailer suitable for use off the beaten path.

The kitchen has plenty of cabinet storage and usable countertop space with a small extension.

The kitchen has plenty of cabinet storage and usable countertop space with a small extension.

It’s for these reasons that the Nash 22H from Northwood Manufacturing is such a pleasant surprise. At less than 25 feet in total length, it’s small enough to go most anyplace and has all the comforts of home. But that’s where the similarities between it and other small travel trailers end.

For one thing, Northwood Manufacturing prides itself on building its own chassis, which is independently certified and designed to handle the rough stuff. It comes standard with a 20-watt solar panel that, while not capable of fully charging one or more batteries, does provide enough power to provide a trickle charge. For those that want more power, it’s also prepped for a generator. And in keeping with its off-grid theme, the 22H comes with a 10-gallon DSI water heater (instead of the usual six gallons) plus holding tanks that are large for a trailer this size: 40 gallons of freshwater, 42 gallons of gray water and 35 gallons of black water. Additionally, you can equip the trailer with a 2.5-kilowatt LP-gas generator, a 60- or 100-watt solar panel, heated and enclosed holding tanks, a cargo carrier and other hardcore gear.

The Tahoe features standalone options such as 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($1,400) and White Diamond tricoat paint ($995).

The Tahoe features standalone options such as 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($1,400) and White Diamond tricoat paint ($995).

The 22H has a claimed dry weight of 4,118 pounds and a gvwr of 7,000 pounds, which made it a good match for Chevy’s new Tahoe SUV, which can tow up to 8,600 pounds with the optional 3.42:1 rear axle ratio. Equipped as it was with a standard 3.08 rear axle and 2WD, the test Tahoe was rated to tow up to 6,600 pounds, which was perfectly adequate for our testing purposes. Obviously, a four-wheel-drive model with the lower rear axle ratio would have been a more appropriate pairing for a rough-and-ready trailer like the 22H, but Chevy’s test-fleet size is limited. And besides, the Tahoe is similar in spirit to the 22H in that it is also designed for heavy-duty use, being one of the few SUVs on the market that still uses body-on-frame construction.

Thankfully, rugged intentions on the part of the Tahoe and the Nash didn’t translate into sacrifice or discomfort. The Tahoe in its LT trim comes equipped with standard leather-appointed and heated front seats with memory settings, power adjustable pedals, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, Bose premium audio and an array of “connectivity features.” These include a 4G LTE hot spot with a 3-gigabyte, three-month data trial and a six-month subscription to OnStar featuring turn-by-turn navigation, automatic crash response and other features.

TahoeSpecsThusly equipped, the Tahoe LT carries a sticker price of $50,045 — but the test unit was also optioned up with the Luxury Package ($2,940), which adds a lot of things you probably don’t need but are nice to have. These include a so-called passive entry system with remote start, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel with power tilt/telescoping function, a power-folding third row and a hands-free lift gate.

The latter two features really help when packing; simply push a button on the key fob twice, and the lift gate rises smoothly and quickly. Once open, there’s no trickery involved in folding the third-row seats — you push a button in the cargo area, and they fold flat effortlessly. Just keep in mind that if your family is large enough to occupy all three rows, there isn’t much space behind the rearmost seat back to store more than a few grocery bags. You’ll need to invest in a roof pod.

The Luxury Package also comes with several safety features, which got mixed reviews. We like Blind Spot Monitoring so much that we think it should come standard in all vehicles, particularly large, high-riding ones. And the Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Front/Rear Park Assist come in handy when trying to park a large vehicle like this one in densely populated strip mall parking lots. Some members of our family liked the Lane Departure Alert feature that sounds when you stray from your lane, and the Forward Collision Alert, which screeches when cars in front of you stop suddenly. Given the number of people who prefer texting to driving, the latter two are probably good features for many, especially other motorists.

The Tahoe LT comes standard with Chevy’s MyLink multimedia system, which includes an 8-inch-diagonal touch screen with navigation, entertainment, contacts, apps and a three-month subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. It also offers Bluetooth phone connectivity and wireless music streaming.

The Tahoe LT comes standard with Chevy’s MyLink multimedia system, which includes an 8-inch-diagonal touch screen with navigation, entertainment, contacts, apps and a three-month subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. It also offers Bluetooth phone connectivity and wireless music streaming.

The Tahoe is remarkably quiet and smooth, almost to a fault. The 5.3-liter V-8 runs like a sewing machine — in fact, the loudest sound emanating from the Tahoe at idle was the accessory drive system, which made little more than a soft ticking sound. We may be among the minority, but we miss the V-8 burble at idle — and even during passing, the engine’s sound is muted. Power is good, whether towing or solo, but we could definitely see how much it could be improved with the 3.42 gear; the 3.08 gear made the Tahoe feel lazy, and downshifts were sluggish. We found it best to put the six-speed transmission in manual mode and do the shifting for ourselves, especially on winding mountain roads.

Ride quality is probably what you’d expect from a large SUV, which is to say that it’s pillowy soft even when driving solo. When towing, the tail bobbed occasionally as the suspension coped with undulating pavement, but was otherwise comfortable. Obviously, this is no sports car, but the handling was predictable and the steering felt responsive, even if it was a bit over-boosted for our tastes. The brakes also felt plenty adequate to help slow the weight of the trailer.

The Nash 22H and Chevy Tahoe make a handsome pairing. A front rock guard protects the trailer’s finish but can be blinding in the sun.

The Nash 22H and Chevy Tahoe make a handsome pairing. A front rock guard protects the trailer’s finish but can be blinding in the sun.

Since the intent of the 22H is dry camping, that’s exactly what we did, spending some quality time in the Los Padres National Forest area of Southern California. The trailer tows easily, and its smaller side wall area doesn’t cause much tail wagging for the tow vehicle in light crosswinds. We appreciate the intent of the aluminum rock guard on the front of the trailer, as this standard feature will certainly prevent damage when traveling down gravel roads. However, we wish that it went only as high as the lower third of the trailer. Extended as it was to the same height as the rear window of the Tahoe, the rock guard’s shiny surface could be blinding when looking in the side- and rearview mirrors.

Once we arrived at our destination, we were ready to enjoy the surroundings in minutes, thanks to the manual stabilizing jacks and a power Carefree awning. Unpacking was a little cumbersome, however, as the two exterior storage compartments have doors on the driver’s side only. That’s not a problem when packing, but when setting up camp, you have to walk around the trailer to put things like a table, chairs or a barbecue on the entry side. The compartments go all the way to the curbside wall, so it seems strange that they don’t just go all the way through. They are, however, both accessible from the inside of the trailer by lifting up the bed or the jackknife sofa, the former offering gas struts to make lifting a lot easier.

The nearly queen-size front bed features storage underneath, cabinets above, and a long cabinet and two drawers on the side.

The nearly queen-size front bed features storage underneath, cabinets above, and a long cabinet and two drawers on the side.

Though we imagine this trailer being used by a couple of sportsmen or a small family, the sleeping accommodations and aforementioned tank capacities suggest that four to six people could actually camp comfortably. The forward bed, while not quite an RV queen at 54 x 74½ inches, was supportive, and there is a good amount of storage space, courtesy of the overhead cabinets and a long cabinet for folded clothes with two small drawers underneath. Just aft of the bed is the jackknife sofa, which converts quickly and easily to a small bed for an adult or two children. And the dinette, which seats four, converts into a bed using a mechanism whereby the front support leg is folded and the table pivots down into place. It’s not only fast and easy to set up, but it is a lot more stable than a traditional push-in post arrangement.

TL1505-test-NashFloorplanThe opposing kitchen offers adequate counter space for simple meal prep, and if you need more room to spread out, there is a small countertop extension. The plastic sink is topped off with a plastic faucet that mimics brushed nickel, and a plastic sink cover doubles as a cutting board. Directly below the sink’s edge is a cubbie for small items like a brush and sponge, and below that, a large cabinet with a single shelf that can serve as a pantry. Three drawers below and large cabinets above offer more than enough storage space, and there’s additional cabinetry above the dinette. Toward the rear is a three-burner stove with an oven, and a microwave above. Slots in the counter behind the stove provide knife storage. All the way to the rear of the living space is a 6-cubic-foot refrigerator with a wood front that matches the rest of the cabinetry.

NashSpecsLivability of this trailer overall is pretty good, considering its compact dimensions. Although we could not watch TV because this particular unit was not so equipped (a 19-inch, 12-volt DC-compatible TV is optional), we were able to listen to the AM/FM/DVD player with Bluetooth compatibility and four speakers. Sound was a bit on the tinny side, but it was decent enough so that no speakers are required outside to hear the music clearly.

When it was time to turn in for the evening, we discovered a couple of things that we’d like to see changed. First, while we understand that miniblinds are the most cost-effective way to cover windows, they take a beating over rougher roads and get crooked, bent, etc. Northwood tells us fabric shades are optional and will be standard for 2016. We’re also not fans of furnace registers that are in the middle of the living area floor, but this may be necessitated by the huge holding tanks that don’t leave a lot of other routing options.

All the way to the rear is the bathroom, which is quite spacious for a trailer this size. For the most part, it is well executed with a large, mirrored wardrobe for hanging clothes, a toilet with a hand flush, and a large lavatory with storage underneath and a mirrored medicine cabinet above. However, the bath area is also where we found a few problems. The shower hose broke immediately, the enclosure was pulling away from the wall, and the door handle came off on the first day of use. In fairness, Northwood rushed this unit out to us, so a post-delivery inspection (PDI) had not been performed prior to delivery.

Small complaints aside, the Nash 22H really is a unique trailer. It offers standard features and options normally found in much larger, more expensive trailers yet remains lightweight and maneuverable enough for most full-size SUVs and half-ton pickups to tow easily. If you’re shopping for a budget-friendly go-anywhere trailer, your list of possible candidates is likely short — and the 22H should be on it.

Northwood Manufacturing | 800-766-6274 |



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2015 Ford F-450 Pickup


Though appearances stay the same, this beast is changed big in ways you don’t see

Here’s a truck for folks who really need a workhorse with really high tow ratings. Although it doesn’t appear very different from last year’s model on the outside, underneath there have been major changes.

Ford’s 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8 is in its second-generation, and the larger Garrett GT37 VGT turbocharger will boost performance at higher altitudes, offer greater power potential and deliver better exhaust braking capability. The new turbocharger also has improved oil and cooling lines and exhaust brake operation can be manually controlled by a switch on the instrument panel. The 19.5-inch alloy wheels are back too.

2015 F450-interiorThe standard 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 powerplant has 440 horsepower at 2800 rpm and 860 lb-ft of torque at 1600 rpm. Additionally, the six-speed automatic transmission now comes with a stronger torque converter. Additionaly an improved frame and suspension adds to its towing prowess. Tow ratings have been increased to 31,200 pounds for fifth-wheel trailers.

The F-450 Super Duty is offered in five levels, base XL, XLT, Lariat, the King Ranch and the top-line Platinum. The cab is the big 6-passenger, 4-door Crew Cab, and dual rear wheels are standard. The King Ranch edition gets an upgraded interior, added colors and special graphics, plus new exterior colors. Lariat and higher trim levels have rear parking sensors, remote engine start, rear-view cameras and power-sliding rear windows. King Ranch and Platinum editions come with a standard Sony audio system with CD player, 9 speakers, satellite radio and MyFordTouch display, plus a nav system. All trim levels have available FX Off-Road Package, fifth-wheel towing-prep package, spray-in bed liner. XLT and higher trim packages come with trailer sway control and integrated trailer brake controller. All models get ABS and traction control.


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Like a Razor

Sea Eagle has just introduced the first of its kind 393rl RazorLite Kayak to its line of inflatable kayaks, boats and stand-up paddleboards. Constructed of drop-stitch material throughout, the 393rl RazorLite Kayak is 12 feet 10 inches long, 27 inches wide, and weighs only 28 pounds. With a tapered, hard-nose bow and stern, this kayak will cut through the waves cleaner, straighter and sharper than any other kayak on the market, according to the company. Made of 1,000-denier reinforced PVC with quadruple overlapping seams and rigid drop-stitch technology, the RazorLite Kayak is made to last. The included backpack allows you to take the lightweight RazorLite to the most remote locations. MSRP: $1,099.

Sea Eagle Boats | 800-748-8066 |


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Columbia Radiator Sleeping Bag Review

Columbia Radiator 40 Sleeping Bag

The Columbia Radiator sleeping bag is a semi-rectangular bag with an outer stash pocket and a compression sack. This bag is not as confining as a mummy-style sleeping bag because of it’s near rectangle shape. It does feature a nice cinch-cord near the top that can be tightened to keep even more heat in.

The Radiator receives a comfort rating to 45 degrees F and is relatively light for a rectangular-style bag at 43 ounces. Much like the Reactor series from Columbia, the Radiator provides exceptional warmth and comfort using proprietary Omni-Heat technology. This reflective heat interior lining allows for excellent heat retention and minimal weight.

Columbia Sleeping Bags

Columbia Reactor 35 Sleeping Bag

The Columbia Sportswear Company manufactures numerous outdoor clothing items and equipment, including sleeping bags. A Columbia sleeping bag differentiates itself from its competition by featuring Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Heat and Omni-Shield technologies. They currently have two main sleeping bag lines, Reactor and Radiator, as well as a very popular sleeping bag liner.

Columbia Reactor Series Sleeping Bag Reviews

Columbia Reactor 15 Sleeping Bag

The Reactor series of sleeping bags by Columbia are available in three different ratings: 15, 25, and 35.

Reactor 15

The Reactor 15 is the coldest-rated bag in the lineup with a temperature rating of 28 degrees F for comfort, 17 degrees F limit, and an extreme rating to -16 degrees F. The 15 is the heaviest of the three bags weighing in at 56 ounces. It is heavier to provide the added warmth for a lower cold rating; however, it is still lightweight enough to be a good backpacking and hiking sleeping bag.

Columbia Omni-Heat Sleeping Bag Liner

Columbia Omni-Heat Sleeping Bag Liner

Columbia has taken advantage of the lightweight, body-heat retaining properties of their Omni-Heat technology and produced a high quality sleeping bag liner. The liner is perfect for adding some extra warmth to any sleeping bag without a dramatic increase in pack size or weight. This makes the Omni-Heat liner
a great accessory for ultralight backpacking and hiking.

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