Fresh Paint…Maintenance Monday on YouTube

We painted our bus in a hurry and ended up with a really good looking paintjob thanks to help from my grandparents, parents and Rachael’s parents. It was a team effort and it transformed the bus from a creepy former school bus to a shiny adventuremobile.

Before



After

Unfortunately, we left without finishing the paint job on the bus and left the front grill ugly and grey. We found a little time to repaint the grill and we posted a video showing you how we did it. This process will work for most plastics on cars, trucks, and RV’s.  Check out the video below!

If you enjoyed our video, please subscribe to our channel, it means a lot and the subscriptions help us stay on the road longer. Be on the lookout for more videos soon!

 

FREE Camping in Southern California

We were pleasantly surprised to find more than enough FREE camping SoCal and we didn’t have to camp in a Wal-Mart parking lot! Below are some of our favorite sites from our time in Southern California.

Laguna Mountain

Julian, CA

GPS: 32.977978, -116.524818

We end up in trailhead parking lots a lot of the time because they are well-traveled, have access to trails, and normally have toilets. This spot was simple, had a great view of Anza Borrego in the distance, and was right on the Pacific Crest Trail.

There are quite a few level spots here and a vault toilet is available. Take a walk on the nearby Sunset Trail for beautiful views at the foot of the Sierras.


San Diego River Preserve

San Diego, CA

GPS: 32.76000856, -117.2250726

This site is a pull-out along the San Diego River in the heart of SD. There is bound to be a fair bit of traffic noise and potential conversations with homeless people living nearby, but you can’t beat the location for a quick night’s sleep and 5-minute drives to Sea World, Ocean Beach, and much more.

This can be an intimidating place to park, but we left our rig here for 4-5 hours at night and rode our bikes to Ocean Beach to have dinner and drinks and enjoy the ocean. There are plenty of runners and cyclists that use this abandoned road day and night, so we never felt unsafe here.


Law Street Beach

San Diego, CA

GPS: 32.8025916, -117.2595628

This section of curbside next to Pacific Beach is one of the best FREE camping spots we have ever had. The view of the Ocean is magnificent and the amount of active people around was very refreshing. There is not a lot of solitude here, but there is plenty of ocean to share.

This site had bathrooms and showers nearby and one only had to make sure not to park here during street sweeping, one day per week.


Thomas Mountain

Anza, CA

GPS: 33.5792566, -116.6241575

There are loads of pull outs and campsites along this OHV trail/road near Anza, CA. The road can be a bit rough and steep, so we stopped short of the top and had a great view of the valley below.

Vehicle with low-clearance should really try somewhere else, this road is rutted and rocky in places and could be hard to navigate in a rig larger than 24 feet.


North Joshua Tree BLM

Joshua Tree, CA

GPS: 34.172932, -116.224663

If you are looking for a peaceful escape from the modern world, this is not it. This is a dry creek bed that is used heavily for off-roading, dirt biking, and any other loud vehicle driving that you can think of. The lake bed is beautiful and very flat, but don’t plan on going to sleep until dark.

This is a perfect overnight spot before entering Joshua Tree National Park. The West Entrance is just minutes away and has a bathroom and brochure station for the park.


Sawtooth Canyon (New Jack City)

Barstow, CA

GPS: 34.670395, -116.98423

We recently (March 2020) added this campsite as we traveled to LA for work and this made a perfect stopover from Northern Arizona.

This campground is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is very busy in the climbing season (October-March). There is a ton of climbing available in this area and something can be found for climbers of all skill levels. This site has toilets but they were full when we visited, there was also zero occupancy when we arrived on a Wednesday night in March-arrive early. All in all, it wasn’t a bad place to stopover on the way to LA. Be sure and hike to the top of the ridge and check out the views looking toward Big Bear.

We had some of our most unique campsites of our whole summer in So Cal and we think you will enjoy them too! Did we miss any spots along our route? E-mail us and let us know!

FREE Camping: Wapta Falls Recreation Site-Field, British Columbia

If you haven’t noticed yet, we don’t like paying for camping. We especially don’t like paying for camping when we are traveling through beautiful Western Canada and every dollar means we can stay on the road a little longer and see more of this beautiful country. Many thanks to the British Columbia Recreation Department for having so many awesome, free campsites and trails for public use. This one was located just down the road from Wapta Falls and offered amazing views of the falls and the mountains beyond.

How to Get There- (GPS: 51.109397, -116.500873)

Once you visit Jasper National Park, travel back down the Icefields Parkway and turn West on HWY 1 toward Field turn onto Beaverfoot Rd. Stay on Beaverfoot Rd for nearly 8 miles of rough logging road and turn left at the sign for Wapta Falls Recreation Site. The dirt road to the campsites is rutted and could be difficult to navigate in wet weather. We managed fine through a few puddles in a 19 ft. Class C RV. Getting out was a little tricky, but with some careful driving we made it out with no problem.

We pulled in at night and didn’t really understand how good of a FREE camping spot we had stumbled upon. Rachael started working on a delicious meal of red beans and rice and I took a walk outside to see what I could see, and hear. The sound of Wapta Falls 2000 feet below was LOUD! And if the stars could make noise they would have drown out the falls. This was by far the best night for night photography on our trip, but it didn’t last long. By the time Rachael got done with dinner, most of the stars had hidden themselves behind cloud cover.

We rested easy knowing that the parking brake was on and that we would awake to the sound of a mountain waterfall and what was sure to be a beautiful view. We slept in the next morning and awoke to great conditions and undoubtedly one of the best views of the trip. Chancellor Peak and Mt. Vaux dominate the horizon and Wapta Falls, massive in its own right, is dwarfed by the peaks above. It is crazy to think that only a day before we were hiking to the abandoned campground and the hoodoos at the base of Chancellor Peak and now we were viewing the same peak from a great distance.

You could say that there were facilities here. There were a couple of fire pit areas and a couple of picnic tables that seemed to be pretty well maintained. There was also a pit toilet between the campsites that seemed to be in okay shape. We would definitely poop here again.

Activities in the Area

  • Wapta Falls Hike-The most obvious activity in the immediate area is to hike to Wapta Falls. The falls are beautiful and huge. There are two options to hike to the falls from this campsite. One is to drive Beaverfoot Rd back to HWY 1 and turn West until you see the sign for Wapta Falls on your right. The second option (we suggest this one) is to hike down and bushwhack your way from the campsite to the falls. It is a lot of elevation to climb back up, but we think the views will more than make up for it.
  • Golden, BC- This quiet little town was one of our favorites from the trip mostly because of the quaint size and the amenities that abounded for such a small town. Our favorite stop in Golden was Bacchus Books. This bookstore doubles as a cafe and coffee shop. The selection of books was impressive considering the whole place couldn’t have been 2000 square feet on both floors. We enjoyed the baked goods and reading in a coffee shop that wasn’t packed full of people.

It really was a shame that we had to leave this campsite so soon, but we had more to see in Yoho and time was starting to run out on our Canadian adventure. We hope that you enjoyed our review of this campsite and hope that you continue to follow our adventures on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as @okienomads.

FREE Camping: Taos Ski Valley

With every trip that we take into the wild, we strive to not pay for camping. Nature should be free. There are a few exceptions, such as the folks over at Hotel Luna Mystica: those guys and girls know how to have a good time in the middle of the desert(pictured above), you should check them out. We spent a night with them on our last trip to Taos, NM. More on that later.

If you find yourself traveling to the Taos area during the summer season (Memorial Day to Labor Day) we have a camping area that is free and awesome! There are actually a couple of spots that we found on Free Campsites. This is a free resource that shows user generated reports on FREE campsite locations around the country. We use this site nearly every time we camp in a new location. There is FREE camping EVERYWHERE! This post is about the free campsite that we chose which is right at the base of the ski runs and is a few steps from the Wheeler Peak trail.

GPS Coordinates: 36.573815, -105.437082

TO GET THERE-

From Taos, head North on US-64W. Turn right onto NM-150N. 150 will wind into the mountains and lead you directly to the ski resort area. Once you reach the main parking lot, stay left on Twining Rd. The main parking lot is the location of our back-up campsite that we didn’t need to use. Take a hard left onto Zapp’s/Porcupine/Kachina RD and travel toward the Bavarian. Once you reach the Phoenix Grill, hang a left on Bluejay Ridge Rd and drive until you can’t drive any farther. The campsite is on your left.

There are no facilities at this location, but the woods (and lots of woods) are right there. Everything uphill from this spot is National Forest and all Leave No Trace precautions should be used. There is a nearby creek for water and bathing. It was in full run-off mode when we visited around Memorial Day and provided great noise at night. I am a big fan of using a SteriPen to treat all of our drinking water when camping, but this water was CLEAN. I think we could have gotten away without using the UV light this time around.

There were two gear casualties on this trip and one happened at this campsite: the demise of my old friend and trusty hammock. The poor, bright blue, Walmart special couldn’t support the weight of both of the Okienomads and ripped in two pieces during an afternoon cuddle sesh. So long old friend, thanks for the hangs. He has been replaced by a brand new ENOS Doublenest that I will be reviewing in a later post and in case you were wondering, it was a very worthwhile upgrade.

The second gear fatality of this trip was my beloved Cannondale mountain bike. It was my first venture into mountain biking and it served me well for a few years. The rear derailuer took a dive on a beautiful mountain bike trail outside of Taos.

The beauty of this campsite (besides the obvious) is it’s proximity to the trailhead for Wheeler Peak. This campsite is at approximately 12,000′ of elevation, so spend a day at camp then make a push for nearby Wheeler Peak (13,161′). The trail is well marked and even with a large amount of snow still on the trail, we found our way up to the top. Regardless of conditions, I suggest that you start at day break or earlier and get to the top before the crowds and before snow melt/thunderstorms in the afternoon.

After hiking this trail during the late season, we made a mental note that the next time we are here will be in the early spring and we will hike for some backcountry ski/board lines, the terrain is beautiful!

Just before tree-line is Williams Lake. The lake was obviously still frozen when we arrived, but still made a beautiful campsite for several backpackers on a nearby ridge. If you are brave and warm natured, the peace and tranquility of this campsite might be worth the hike, but be prepared for high winds, temperatures below freezing, and critters that are very curious. Please use a bear bag and hang it properly away from your camp.

The hike up from the lake got very steep and involved quite a bit of snow. I suggest bringing trekking poles as balance is hard to come by on the snow and ice. The poles may also come in handy on the way down in the slush. I wore trail running shoes and Rachael hiked in hiking boots. Neither of us were disappointed in our choice.

We made it to the top and simply took in the sunlight and the view. It seemed like we might have been the first or second group on the summit and we passed  A LOT of hikers on our way down that had slept in. The peak allows some amazing views of the nearby San De Cristo range and farther Rocky Mountains in the distance.

The hike down took around an hour and a half. With the snow pack still fairly deep, we were able to slide on our butts most of the way down. There would be GoPro footage, but the slide required a very specific set of skills to stay upright while sliding.

This campground was excellent. We really enjoyed the distance from the trailhead, the privacy, and the natural beauty. This site ranks in my top 5 best campsites that I have ever been to. The only down-side that I could see would be if someone were staying in the ski house near the site. Constant traffic might be annoying, but we did not see a soul while we were there on a holiday weekend. I highly recommend this campsite to anyone in the Taos, NM area and look forward to the next time we make it back. And best of all, IT WAS FREE!

As always, follow us on Instagram to get the most up to date images and video from our trips and build progress on our bus. We would love it if you would check out the rest of the blog and the YouTube page as well. All social media is @okienomads. Thanks for reading and have a blessed day!

Coming Soon- Campground Review: Hotel Luna Mystica

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Jasper, AB: The Town of No Elk

When we arrived to our campground just outside of town, I went for a little run into Jasper along the town’s trail system. The air was cold, but not uncomfortable and the run was fantastic. I ran 3 miles into town and back to our campground.I only had to touch pavement twice, in crosswalks. It is truly fascinating that a town that essentially closes for half of the year has a comprehensive trail system that encircles the entire town. I need to figure out an efficient method of taking pictures and video while running. Maybe I will start taking my phone with me, we will see. Once I got back to the campground, we had dinner and went to check out the river at night, together.

Athabasca River-Jasper, AB
Athabasca River-Jasper, AB

The riverside was beautiful. We walked along the water and took in the sights, hoping for a glimpse at the Northern Lights. I think we were still a little early in the season and early in the evening. The clear skies were still a sight to see. We relaxed into a really nice evening in the RV with some reading and a nice night’s sleep. Needless to say, we weren’t alone.

Wapita Campground- Jasper, AB

We awoke to the sound of a diesel hunting truck warming up for a while and the rest of the morning was peaceful. We had a quick breakfast, enjoyed the heated bathroom and drove into Jasper.

I have to mention something that I have written about in previous posts. Just because you pay $25USD for a campsite in a National Park, doesn’t mean that you won’t be parking in a parking lot with 100 other RV’s. That is the main reason why we try to camp off of the beaten path when we travel in our skoolie. There is more privacy, less noise, and normally a much better view. Be on the lookout for our next blog post in this series from a beautiful campsite just over the border into British Columbia.

We made the short drive into Jasper and needed two utilities really badly, coffee and laundry.

Skoolie Tip #003: Pack light. In the case of our bus, it is a 4-window, basically the smallest modern skoolie you can own. If we packed all of the clothing that we owned in it, we would not have room for gear or food. By having about a week’s worth of clothing and planning outfits that use multiple combinations of a few key clothing articles, we save space and the amount of weight that we have to carry into the laundromat.

We found both coffee and laundry in the Snowdome Laundromat in downtown Jasper. The concept of this business is genius. It is a laundromat that also serves coffee. Or it’s a coffee shop, with laundry machines. Either way, it helped us shave one stop off of our day of errands in Jasper. We spent a couple of hours there on a weekday morning and it was busy There were roughly 20 people drinking coffee and around 10 doing laundry. It seemed to be a happening place. I would give this place 5 stars, but they had timed internet, which as a traveller, is crippling and really challenging. When you have been on the road for a week, 30 minutes of internet isn’t a lot. Regardless, next time I am in Jasper I will go get a cup of coffee here even if I don’t need to wash the pants that I have worn for 4 days straight.

Snowdome Laundromat at 607 Patricia St.

Once done with laundry and a resupply in Jasper, we took off for Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. The canyon is extremely accessible and has paved ADA walkways to most of the features of the canyon. The canyon runs so deep that you almost can’t see the water from the edge. We had only a limited amount of time at the canyon, but I am convinced that you could spend all day walking the trails to the different cascades.

Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB
Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB
Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB
Maligne Canyon-Jasper, AB

Maligne Canyon was a nice break to stretch our legs and prepare for the winding and snowy road to Maligne Lake. The road passes by Medicine Lake, which is a site to see in it’s own right. Once you get to Maligne Lake the first thing you notice is the iconic Maligne Lake Boathouse that dates back to 1928. Donald “Curly” Phillips built the boat house to attract business to his hunting and fishing trips to the lake. He stocked the lake with trout that he transported in barrels to the shores. Phillips lived in the boat house until his untimely death in an avalanche accident in 1936. The house is now used as storage for rental canoes and paddleboat used by Maligne Lake Tours. As most popular images of this location reveal, the boat house roof is in fact bright red, we visited when it was covered by snow.

Maligne Lake Boathouse- Jasper, AB
Maligne Lake- Jasper, AB

Winding back along the road from Maligne Lake we witnessed a couple of moose spending some quality time together and the crowd quickly gathered on the side of the highway to view the massive and majestic creatures. We left the moose alone and continued back to Jasper. We were rewarded for giving the moose their space with one of the most extravagant views that I have ever seen. It gives me chills writing about it months later. Pyramid Mountain, aptly named in the 1800’s for it’s appearance, dominates the horizon above Jasper and quickly became one of my favorite shots of all-time.

Pyramid Mountain- Jasper, AB

Jasper was an interesting place that we caught at an interesting time. During the summer, I imagine the hiking, biking, and climbing is spectacular. Likewise in the winter I can’t imagine the possibilities of winter activities. Shoulder season seemed like a great time to visit Jasper without the crowds, but also without the elk. We spent 2 days in Jasper and didn’t see a single elk. This was a little disappointing because the town center is known for the excellent elk population. The missing elk simply give us another reason to return to Jasper someday.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read about our adventures and view our photos. If you haven’t yet, please take a couple more minutes to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our channel on YouTube. Take a look around our website and if you see anything you like or have any suggestions, please let us know by commenting or e-mailing us at okienomads@gmail.com.

New VLOG Episode: 1 Year Bus-iversary: Skoolie Build Update

We have a new VLOG episode live on our YouTube channel. In this episode of our Vlog, we catch you up on our progress on our Skoolie build. We relocated our inverter and charge controller away from the water under the sink and built cabinets all over the bus!

Please follow along on Instagram

Please subscribe and comment on YouTube

Stay tuned for our next episode and subscribe to our channel so you can watch as we take our bus on the road in April 2018!

Our Bus Has a House Door!

Some of our most dedicated readers might remember that right after we purchased our bus in Fall 2016, we traveled 1500 total miles with Rachael’s family to go skiing at Monarch Mountain, near Salida, CO. The drive was incredibly helpful in figuring out how the bus drove on the interstate (i70 is fun), what kind of gas mileage we could expect, and any potential issues that might arise. The most annoyingly obvious problem that our fun little bus had was a drafty front door. The bifold doors had seen better days and let in all sorts of noise, cold air, and probably critters. My wife and I wanted a house door for the appearance, security, and heat/cool retention, so a house door was going to happen.

Skoolie Tip # 002: Always check your tires! By check, I don’t mean kick a couple of times and look at the tread. I mean jack the vehicle up and look at the rotation of the wheel and tire. We had a flat spot on our two front tires (likely from sitting) that were causing a very obvious shake in the steering at 62.3 MPH that was discovered on our first long trip in the skoolie. We replaced our front tires in Wichita, KS and the rest of the trip was smooth. 

Like many of our projects, it starts with me, Rachael, and/or her father finding something of interest in a thrift store, dumpster, or Habitat for Humanity Restore and bringing it home. On this occasion, Rachael and her father found a solid wood door on one of their adventures and brought it home to be used on the skoolie. The door was significantly narrower than the bus opening, so some building was required.

I created a frame out of 2×4’s and mounted them into the steel frame of the bus with self-tapping screws. The screws hold very tight, but if necessary I will reinforce the frame with bolts through the exterior of the bus. Next, I chiseled out slots for the hinges on the door and the frame and installed the hinges. As with most of our bus build pictures, I remember to take pictures of the easy stuff and not the hard stuff.

I hole sawed out the holes for the door lock and handle and installed those promptly after. Everything fit as expected and the lock secures the door as desired.

There was a certain rush in getting the door hung as we were about to leave for a two-week trip to the Canadian Rockies and didn’t want to leave the bus unsecured in our absence. If you want to read more about our trip to Alberta and BC, check out a couple of links below:

BANFF, AB: OKIENOMAD’S TRIP THROUGH CANADA’S OLDEST NATIONAL PARK

THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY: PROMENADE DE GLACIERS

All done! Well not quite. We still need to trim out the inside of the door frame to stop the door from closing too far, insulate the small imperfections and gaps, and trim out the the interior and exterior of the door. I will update this post when we get that completed, but until then our bus is secure and looks 100x better than the old bifold doors.

If you have any questions about the door addition or comments, let us know! We love hearing from people that are following our adventures and progress.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read about our adventures and view our photos. If you haven’t yet, please take a couple more minutes to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our channel on YouTube. Take a look around our website and if you see anything you like or have any suggestions, please let us know by commenting or e-mailing us at okienomads@gmail.com.

The Icefields Parkway: Promenade de Glaciers

Before you read about one of the best and most iconic roads in North America, go read about our journey through Alberta in Bow Valley Parkway and Lake Louise and Banff, AB: Okienomad’s Trip Through Canada’s Oldest National Park.

Now onto this road. The Icefields Parkway is a 167 mile road that links Lake Louise to Jasper. The road winds and curves along pristine alpine rivers, over massive mountain passes and passed some of the coolest attractions in Canada.

We left out of our epic hillside parking spot and made the turn West and onto the Icefields Parkway.

Just after starting up one of the mountain passes, we were greeted by a herd of bighorn sheep crossing the road. These creatures did not remotely care that we were on the road. We let them pass and continued on up the hill.

We shortly stumbled upon the Columbia Icefield and proceeded to hike as close as we could before the crevices started. I was really taken aback by the glacier and how much it has retreated into the mountains since discovery. The date markers showing the toe of the glacier over time really convey the effects of global warming. I enjoyed the hike because of the beauty but was also humbled by the reality of what damage we have done to our planet.

On our way up the Icefields Parkway, we somehow missed the turn off for Tangle Falls. We realized it shortly after we missed the sign, but decided to come back to it on our way back South. We were not disappointed. This waterfall looked like something on a tropical island. I can’t imagine what it looks like in the summer season. We met a man here, he was actually stopping to use the facilities, and he was on his way from Alaska to Idaho, solo, in a 2nd generation Nissan Xterra. I was a little jealous of the epic distance of his trip and also very nervous for him driving through the wilds of North America through the night on his own.

We continued down the parkway toward Athabasca Falls, aptly named for the river that feeds the falls. The falls were incredible and what we missed seeing over the horizon due to the fog, we made up for in snow-covered trees bordering the river.

Racheal and I attempted to follow a trail around to the lower falls, but ended up on an old rail track and followed it a little ways into the forest. We returned to take in one more look at the falls and head toward Jasper.

This road is iconic and epic due to the sweeping views and the beautiful natural features that litter the landscape. If you are traveling the Icefields Parkway, I encourage you to take two days to see this road, especially during the summer season. If you feel like turning off and getting a picture, do it. We stopped for a lot of pictures of the road and I still wish we had stopped for more. There are so many beautiful scenes to see, TAKE YOUR TIME!

We made our way to Sunwapta Falls, a Class VI waterfall with a drop of 60ft. I would have loved to see someone ride a kayak through this set of falls as it is impressive in size and volume. I encourage you to visit this (and any other iconic sights) early in the morning. If you can be the first one there as the sun comes up, you will miss the hoards of tourists that bus in during the day. It became difficult to even setup a shot at Sunwapta due to the masses of people during the week in mid-October. Nevertheless, it was beautiful and well worth the stop.

We met the nicest woman from Ontario while we were hiking around the falls. She was visiting her son in Alberta and decided to stop at some sights along the way. Meeting people on the road is one of our favorite elements of long-term travel. We are contemplating making a business card so we can stay in touch with people that we meet on the road.

We pulled into the Jasper area close to dark, so we got the RV parked and paid for in the Wapiti Campground. Similar to Tunnel Mountain II in Banff, Wapiti is a massive campground. Be warned, during the winter months, there is not water fill or dump station at Wapiti, it is strictly an electric-only site. We were not alone at Wapiti, but the shore power and warm, clean showers were worth the $25USD that we paid to park in a parking lot with other RV’s. We will tell the story of our time in Jasper in another post, stay tuned.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read about our adventures and view our photos. If you haven’t yet, please take a couple more minutes to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our channel on YouTube. Take a look around our website and if you see anything you like or have any suggestions, please let us know by commenting or e-mailing us at okienomads@gmail.com.

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Gear Review: Lowepro DroneGuard CS 400 is the Answer to 3DR Solo’s Problem

One of our newest and most unique pieces of camera kit is our drone. We use a 3DR Solo Quadcopter, filming with a GoPro4 Silver. The drone allows us to get shots like these:

Zach Elseman Photography: Illinois River Flood-2017 &emdash;

Zach Elseman Photography: Illinois River Flood-2017 &emdash;

Zach Elseman Photography: Illinois River Flood-2017 &emdash;

The Solo is a very user friendly and easy to operate, however, one of the drawbacks is the case that it comes in from 3DR; the case is cardboard and has a luggage style handle instead of shoulder straps. Enter Lowepro DroneGuard CS 400.

Exterior

The CS400 has a patented “Foam Shell” carbonate casing that makes it strong enough to protect your drone and accessories without adding the bulk and weight of a Pelican case. The back-pad and straps are padded enough to be comfortable for short walks and moderate hikes, but would probably require some additional padding for longer hikes.

Zach Elseman Photography: Blog Images &emdash;

Zach Elseman Photography: Blog Images &emdash;

The exterior of the case is extremely scratch resistant and will more than likely not show most stains such as dirt or similar. I wouldn’t however apply a lot of pressure to the case as it is not as rigid as a hard case.

Interior

The interior of the CS400 has the “Drone-Guard” customization system that allows several different drones to be able to fit in the case with a simple switch of some panels. Take a look at the Lowepro website for more detailed images of some of the different customizations you can come up with to fit your drone.

Below is how my 3DR Solo is setup, with plenty of room for a jacket or additional camera on either side.

Zach Elseman Photography: Blog Images &emdash;

Zach Elseman Photography: Blog Images &emdash;

Zach Elseman Photography: Blog Images &emdash;

As you can see, the case fits everything that I need to operate the Solo and even has room for more batteries if I add some later on. Zippered pouches are well placed to allow storage of chargers, cables, and more. The propellor board is Velcro’d to the lid and is removable.

Zach Elseman Photography: Blog Images &emdash;

Durability

I have only just received this case and have not had a chance to run it through a field test as of yet, so I cannot speak to the durability of the case. I will report back after extensive use if the case was anything short of satisfactory.

The only potential failure points that I can see is the semi-rigid construction of the shell. Any large amount of pressure from someone accidentally sitting on it, will more than likely cause damage to the drone and the case. The case is heavily padded and should be able to withstand short drops, throws, and slides.

Overall

I am very happy with this case so far. Time will tell if it is worth the $100 price tag or if a Pelican hard case would have been a better bet for a little bit more money. If this case holds up to the abuse of a traveling photographer, I will be satisfied with the purchase. As with anything made by Lowepro, a lot of time and energy was put into designing this case, and it shows.

7 Tips for an Overnight Paddling Trip

We recently took off on a 2 night, 3 day trip on the Scenic Illinois River in Northeast Oklahoma. We floated from the Arkansas border to Tahlequah, OK. Check out the VLOG episode here! One of the most challenging aspects of an overnight trip is packing. I am going to show you 7 tips for how to pack your boat for a great trip on the river. This article will include how to’s, gear recommendations, and more so check it out.

1. Start with a Reliable Vessel

Insure that your boat is in good working order and that if you are going to experience large rapids that you have the necessary equipment like a spray skirt and a throw bag. The river that we floated has very few rapids and none of them are over class-1, so the throw bag can stay at home. We brought our spray skirts simply because we were expecting rain.

A trip can go awry very quickly if you have a boat failure. A boat that takes on water or doesn’t navigate properly can mean capsizing or getting pinned on riprap. Pay attention to the weight limit of your vessel as well. I do not hold manufacturer recommended weights as the final decider, but I was about 25 pounds over my recommended weight and that was about as far as I am willing to push it. I was sitting pretty low.

*Craigslist is a great place to find a gently used kayak for a much cheaper price than buying new. Good touring yaks can be had for under $1000. That is a steal!

2. Remember the Basics

The basic needs for survival are food, water and shelter, not necessarily in that order. A human can survive over 3 weeks without food, but will perish without water in 3-5 days. Shelter is important to maintain body temperature and protect from exposure and the elements.

  • Water- We always bring plenty of water in addition to a means of purifying freshwater. We use the STERIPEN and it has never let us down in harsh environments. A helpful tip when harvesting water from a stagnant source, use a bandana or buff to filter out floaties before treating with the UV light.

Due to the river having fairly clean water, I normally carry 2-32 ounce Nalgene bottles. These bottles are nearly indestructible and make using the STERIPEN super easy. Each bottles takes 1 minute of UV exposure to produce drinkable water.

*If a precarious situation such as a thunderstorm keeps you in your tent, the Nalgene makes for an effective pee bottle too. 

  • Food- Pack extra food. Even if you are a super-ultra-lightweight hiker and you carry a scale to the trailhead to make sure you’re not carrying too much, an extra couple of CLIF bars could be the difference in you having enough energy to swim, run, or hike to a nearby road or home for help.

For a river trip, we normally stick with a small ice chest or cooler bag for items like chicken breasts, bacon, and other easily packable perishables. This time, we brought along eggs, bacon, and hash-browns for breakfast. For lunch we brought bread, lunch meat, and trail mix. For dinner we did fish, chicken, sausage and veggies.

*Helpful Tip- Make Hobo-style meals ahead of time in aluminum foil and store them in freezer baggies in the cooler. Once you get to camp, throw them on the coals and enjoy. Once you’re done, put the cooled aluminum back in the freezer bag for easy disposal.

  • Shelter-Always carry some kind of shelter, regardless of the length of your trip. A simple solar blanket and fire bag can keep you warm and dry in a bad situation.

The last time that we didn’t pack shelter on a trip was Land Run 100 in April of this year. We assumed that since it was a bike race, shelter would not be needed. FALSE. We found ourselves completely exhausted and borderline hypothermic at mile 34 in the middle of rural Logan County Oklahoma with nothing but soaked clothes and spotty cell reception. Had we packed a simple lighter and 2 space blankets (minimal weight), we would have been much more pleasant in the root cellar that we hunkered down in for 45 minutes waiting on help to arrive.

On this trip, due to the chance of rain and the unavoidable onslaught of mosquitos, we opted to pack a backpacking tent sans stakes. The same coverage could be achieved for one person with a hammock and a bug net/tarp setup. Stakes are imperative when the chance for rain exists. Fancy backpacking tent flies aren’t designed to be used without stakes. We know, because we left ours at home and paid for it with soggy tent walls.

*An ultralight tarp such as the Hennessy Hex can be used as a shelter in a pinch with just a couple of stakes and some tracking poles or paddles. 

3. Stay Dry

This one seems obvious, but most floaters don’t take precautions to stay dry. Even some that know better, can get caught with their pants down. It is imperative that all of your dry gear and supplies (warmth, fire, and food) stay dry. If you are traveling with camera gear, it obviously needs to stay dry too.

On this trip, I took every precaution advised and secured all dry goods in dry bags, properly closed and stored in the water-tight hatch on the rear of my boat. After paddling most of the first day, I was told that my boat was riding low in the water. I pulled into our campsite and found my rear hatch completely full of water. I later found out that the skeg cable sheath had come undone and was leaking water into the hatch. My dry bags weren’t all that dry. Especially the bag with my DSLR camera, lenses, and memory card in it. I pulled the dry bag out of the hull to find water visibly inside the bag. I released the dry bag only to find the camera bag completely soaked. When I opened the Lowepro Camera bag the contents were dry as a bone. I received that bag when I bought my camera and the seller didn’t have anything else to send it in. Thanks Lowepro! The cheap dry bag has been moved to “mostly dry” duty for items like a tarp or rain jacket.

*Hypothermia can occur in very warm temperatures with the quick arrival of a summer storm, or prolonged periods without the ability to make a fire.

4. Pack Small

Most kayaks come equipped with small watertight hatches, so it is important to pack a lot of small dry bags instead of big ones. For a sit-in like my Jackson Rogue or Rachael’s Pyrahna Fusion, the biggest dry bag I would suggest is a 10L bag. If you have a sit-on kayak or a canoe, you can probably get away with bigger bags, however, you will wast a considerable amount of space.

*If you must pack a large dry bag in a small kayak, place the half-packed bag in the spot where you want to pack it first, then fill items in until it fills the space, then roll it shut.

5. Pack Smart

I mentioned total weight earlier. Where you place the weight is extremely important as well. Too much weight in the bow or stern and the boat will not handle properly and may be more susceptible to rolls. Place heavier items near the middle of the cockpit and place your light-weight items toward the ends of your boat. Remember that lateral placement can effect handling as well. If you are heavier on the port side, remember that when you have to roll back over.

*If your creek/crossover kayak is equipped with a bulkhead and you are not floating whitewater, remove it for the additional storage space.

6. Flip Your Boat

Flipping your boat at night is helpful for a lot of reasons. First, it keeps your seat and cockpit dry, whether by dew or rain, no one likes a wet seat. Second,it discourages critters from crawling into your boat for the night and surprising you in the AM. Also remember to move your boat and paddles up and out of the water. Waking up to a missing boat is absolutely no fun and you float buddies with thank you for not having to taxi you down river.

*I make a habit of banging on my boat with a paddle when I approach in the morning to make sure there are no creepy crawlies waiting for me inside. 

7. Know Your Limits

Overnight paddling trips are one of my favorite ways to see new places and enjoy nature like most don’t get to. However, multi-day trips open you up to possible fatigue and injury. Make sure that you are physically able to tackle the 15-20 miles per day that you plan to float in order to get back to your job by 8AM on Monday morning. It’s often hard to call in to work from the river valley, only because of spotty cell service.

*Start with a few small day trips or over-nighters and slowly work your way up to longer expeditions. This way you will know what gear you need and how much you can handle.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read along. We post all kinds of articles like this almost every week. Stick around and check out the pictures from our travels and check out our YouTube Channel for more content not published on the blog. We are always looking for brands and creators to partner with, please reach out if you are interested- okienomads@gmail.com.

As always, God Bless and be safe out there!

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