REI Quarter Dome UL Tent

Over the summer I went on a backpacking trip in Mt. Rainier National Park (which was awesome, but more on that later). Rather than using my REI Half Dome 2+ Tent, I instead tented with someone else who had an REI Quarter Dome UL Tent, which was lighter and more suitable for the 5 day backpacking trip. The tent worked very well and kept us warm throughout the trip, despite rain and cold weather.

At just under 4 lbs and packing down to a size of 7 x 20 inches, the REI Quarter Dome UL REI Quarter Dome UL SideTent lives up to its name. It’s a great backpacking tent for 1 or 2 people, depending on how big they are, and is very light; when divided into two backpacks it really is “ultralight”. I say it may fit 2 people depending on their sizes because it doesn’t have an abundance of floor space. The floor is only 85 x 52 inches (7’1″ x 4’4″). While this may work for many people, it will be pretty snug for two people with broader chests.

Set Up
The tent is very durable and easy to set up. The footprint for the tent is very well made and, as with any tent, should be bought as soon as possible to extend the tent’s working life and prevent the floor from being torn up. The tent is very simple to set up and can easily be set up in a few minutes by one person. It also features Dead End Pole Sleeves, which help speed up set-up.REI Quarter Dome UL Front

Design
As with many other REI tents, the Quarter Dome UL has two doors and two vestibules, a plus for a smaller tent. Nobody has to crawl over someone else to exit or enter the tent and dirt encrusted boots can be left under the rain fly on one’s own side of the tent. The two roof vents prevent condensation from building up in the tent, keeping the interior dry. Mesh walls provide for good ventilation in warmer weather. Additionally, the floor has a waterproof seal, so the floor on the inside remains dry on damp ground.

Rainfly
The nylon rainfly doesn’t leak, is simple to set up and is very durable and light. Velcro pieces allow you to attach the rainfly to the pole sleeves on the tent, which lets you keep the rainfly attached to the tent when taking it down. This makes setting up the tent later in the day on a backpacking trip easier and faster. Furthermore, the rainfly corners are color coded to match the corners of the tent, which eliminates any confusion when attaching it to the tent.

REI Quarter Dome UL InsideAdditional Parts
The tent comes with guylines and tighteners, stakes, bags for the stakes and poles, a pole repair tube, and a compressible tent stuff sack. The stakes are durable and don’t bend easily, and the guylines keep the rainfly taught and away from the sides of the tent, keeping the tent sides dry. The pole and stake bags provide for efficient organization and easy packing.

All in all, the REI Quarter Dome UL Tent is a well-built, durable tent that’s great for backpacking trips. I would recommend it to someone who’s looking for a lightweight, 1 or 2 person tent and who doesn’t mind a little reduction in space.

Backpacking in Holcomb Creek, Big Bear

Hi everyone! I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few months. I have been very tied up with school and extracurricular activities. However, I have gone on a great backpacking trip in the time since my last post, so here goes!

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For my trip, I traveled out to Holcomb Creek, in Big Bear (in the San Bernardino Mountains) with a group of friends. All of the cars were parked in an open area of the dirt road we took to get to the trail head. After parking, we traveled down the road a bit until we spotted an opening on the left side of the road. We climbed over a knee-high chain and began our hike.

For the first couple of miles, we trekked up and down some low hills on a trail that paralleled Holcomb Creek itself and a fireroad. The trees at points looked quite burnt, so I assume there was a fire there within the past few months or so. On the left hand side of the trail, Holcomb Creek meandered along. At this point the creek was very small and was largely obscured by giant plants and grasses. These plants seemed to go on forever through the valley and were quite pretty.
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After these first couple of miles, we left the trees and river behind as the trail continued into a desert environment. The trees weren’t numerous and were very scraggly. As the sun rose higher in the sky, we started gaining elevation with steeper inclines and soon stopped for lunch high on a hill, at approximately the halfway point. From here, the hike began going increasingly downhill for a couple more miles, punctuated intermittently with a couple of inclines. The scenery slowly melted into a more forested environment and we encountered the creek again a few times as we hiked alongside it.

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For the last couple of miles, there were only a few inclines, but these were pretty steep, and not that thrilling, probably due to the fact that the trail seemed to be made of sand at this point. Eventually we crossed another fireroad. At this point we encountered some people on dirt bikes and ATV’s. (As a matter of fact, Holcomb Creek Valley is quite popular for these people. When you look up Holcomb Creek on the internet, much of the information is related to ATV usage and trails for ATV’s.)

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As we continued on, we crossed the creek a couple of times in the last mile and a half. Eventually, we reached the campsite. This is a trail campground called Holcomb Crossing. The area is filled with pine trees, but there is still a lot of space to pitch tents. My friend even managed to pitch his tent hammock between a couple of trees!

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I really like this area. There’s a lot of shade, and the creek is right by the campsite. This proved to be a very useful source of water and we were able to set up a couple of gravity filters there. There is also a bountiful amount of small sticks and branches that can be used to build a campfire.

The next day, the trip back was much of the same, although I did almost lose my water bottle. I was climbing over a boulder in the creek to get to the other side, when my bottle fell out of one of the mesh bottle holders on the side of my backpack. I jumped the last couple of feet and made a mad dash through the trees, then jumped from the bank onto a little sand bar in the center of the creek. Luckily the current brought my bottle just within reach and I was able to retrieve it. (And that, folks, is why its important to have everything on your backpack secured tightly!)

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We passed some more people on ATV’s and a group of people driving up a trail of boulders in their trucks. It looked pretty fun! It probably is until the truck flips when it goes over a particularly large boulder. (However, I’m nowhere near close to being knowledgeable in this field and I don’t think that happens often.)

20130609-005228.jpgAfter 6 or so more miles, we reached the cars, and for many, this was a very nice reunion indeed. I had a lot of fun on this trip. I don’t go backpacking a lot, but when I do, it’s a nice break from car camping. Now, some of you are probably interested in some more information on the trail itself.

The hike is approximately 16 miles round trip. It would probably be best to hike the trail in the spring or fall, because in the winter it does snow here and in the summer it can get to be pretty hot. For driving directions, you can go to the following link that REI has: http://www.rei.com/guidepost/detail/california/hiking/holcomb-crossing-trail-camp-loop-backpacking/17129.

For a short, 2 day backpacking trip, this trip would be great. It’s not that difficult of a hike and relatively short. On the other hand, it’s also nice way to get away from work for a small break on the weekend!

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

This campground is very good. Located in San Juan Capistrano, CA, Caspers Wilderness Park has 3 campgrounds with multiple sites (one of these is an equestrian campground) and 2 group campgrounds. There are also quite a lot of trails. When I was camping in East Ridge Trail SignCaspers Wilderness, I stayed with friends on a group site called San Juan Meadow Group Area and hiked the nature loop and the East Ridge Trail.

The East Ridge Trail hike was very beautiful and the panoramic view was amazing. We could see for miles around. The Nature Loop wasn’t as fascinating for me, although the hike itself was pretty good. The plant life seemed dried up and wasn’t that beautiful. However, this is most likely due to the fact that we hiked here in the winter in November and not in the spring or summer. The last time we camped at Caspers Wilderness was in January of the past year.

East Ridge Trail

East Ridge Trail

We hiked into San Juan Meadow Group Area from the Nature Loop and set out to stake our claims on good tenting areas (although all of the camping areas in this group site are relatively flat). At first I was quite surprised at the lack of plant life in the large open field in the center of the group area. The last time I had been to Caspers Wilderness the field was covered in a thick blanket of grass. Again, I attribute this to the time of year. (Winter is never the best time to see a lot of green plant life) Anyway, we set up our tents and then proceeded to explore the area and do some fun activities!

Caspers Wilderness Campground has some good amenities and is an ideal place for camping with children. The amenities of the campground include: a dump station, Tentsbathrooms, picnic tables, fire rings, trash bins, drinkable water, BBQ grills, showers, an amphitheater, a visitors center, and a playground. Firewood is also available. The playground would be a very good play option for children and is fairly big for a campground. The abundance of open space on the big field (or meadow) in the San Juan Meadow Group Area is great for a ton of activities, including frisbee, soccer, football, baseball, or anything else you could think of. We played ultimate frisbee the day after we got there.

That night we had a campfire (admittedly a bit large) and eventually went to bed when it

Frost on a Pot

Frost on a Pot

got too cold to do anything else. The night got even colder and it might have dipped below freezing. (When I woke up it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit). The pots we left out to dry he night before were covered in frost! (Word to the wise here: don’t leave pots or pans out overnight to dry; they could get dirty or wet again with morning dew or frost.)

Caspers Wilderness Park is a great camp for large groups or families with children. I was Giant Campfirevery satisfied with all of the amenities that I used and didn’t have any problems during my stay. My only recommendation for camping at Caspers Wilderness Park is to bring a frisbee or soccer ball or something. If camping in San Juan Meadow, you’ll have a lot more fun this way! Happy camping!

The campground address is: 33401 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

The campground telephone number is: (949) 923-2210

Leo Carrillo State Beach: Camping in Malibu

Over the weekend I went on a trip with a few friends to go camping. We didn’t want to go far away, because we were only going camping for a night. We ended up camping at Leo Carrillo. Leo Carrillo is up the California coast in Malibu. Leo Carrillo State Beach is, as you probably guessed, by the beach. Only a short walk from the campsites towards the front of the campground you’ll find the beach. You can explore the tide pools, play in the sand, or climb on the rocks. Or all three! Be warned though, on weekends when families take breaks from school there may be more little kids and babies than usual, a nightmare many campers dread.

If you end up going to the beach, make sure to try to go at low tide. This way, you can fully experience the tide pools and the sea anemones and sea stars (star fish) that reside within them. At high tide you can only really see a few tide pools if you’re lucky. Another point of interest on the beach by the tide pools is the cave. After climbing over some rocks, you can walk by the tide pools and approach a big rocky part of the land. If you climb up the rocks, you’ll see another little area enclosed by the rock walls. This area is also accessible by way of a staircase. However, if you don’t climb the rocks and go around them, where the front of the rock wall should be is a medium-sized cave. You can walk right inside, just as long as you keep your head low and watch the ceiling. Farther back into the cave, you’ll see a ray of sunlight shining through the wall on the right side. This opening is a couple square feet wide, just big enough for most people to fit through and come out into the enclosed beach area mentioned above.

The actual campground at Leo Carrillo State Beach is pretty nice. If you don’t mind the campsites being a little bit open, then this campground will suit you just fine. Because my group was pretty big, we decided to try the group campsite in the back of the campground. When you get there, you have to park in a small lot and then walk a few hundred feet back to the campground. You walk down a slope and then back up the other side. The campground is only a hundred feet or so away then. If there has been a lot of rain recently, the slope that you walk down through might have water running through it. In this case, there are conveniently cement steps to walk across. When you get to the campsite, you’ll find that there is actually a lot of space to set up tents. There is a main area, with a few sites and a group of six tables, but if you walk around the area, you’ll find a lot more sites among the trees. There is a fire pit, for those of you who love s’mores, and a bathroom a short walk down to the end of the fireroad. There is also a barbecue grill and a raised, shallow pit with a suspended rack above it for cooking a chicken or something else that you want to cook over a fire.

Leo Carrillo State Beach has a very nice selection of campsites and if you want to camp by the beach with tide pools nearby, then Leo Carrillo is the way to go. Happy camping!

Starting off: El Capitan Campground

My family and I have gone to this campsite quite a few times for overnight camping. For only one night of camping, I generally don’t like to drive 6+ hours to get to a campsite that I’m only staying at for one night. El Capitan works pretty well because it’s just in Santa Barbara, very close to home. The campground is pretty nice and we get easy access to the beach, which is only a short walk from the campground. Pitch the tent, set up the sleeping bags, and go to the beach. Pretty nice for one night camping.

The only down side is the train. No, that wasn’t a spelling mistake. There’s a train that goes by near the campsites in one of the back campground loops. I couldn’t see the train from my tent, but I could sure hear it when it went by! The sound of the train only lasts about a minute or so, but at night when people are “quiet” (partying around the campfire) and you’re in your tent, you can still hear it when it goes by. (If you’re near the back loop, which I was) Not to worry, though. The sound of the train didn’t have a bad effect on my sleeping. Once you hit the sack, all train noises and sounds of life slip into dreams…unless someone’s snoring loudly, in which case you might think at first that the train woke you up.

For my one night camping trip, life’s good, and even some small disturbances from a passing train don’t matter in full view of the trip. I got what I came for, a night of camping and having fun. (and s’mores)