• Rig’d Ultraswing Multi-fit

    Rig’d Ultraswing Multi-fit

    I knew that I wanted to upgrade the wheels and tires on my Subaru Outback Wilderness as soon as I bought it and I also knew that I would need another option for transporting my spare when I did. I wanted something of quality construction, that looked good, and offered more flexibility for our camping trips and tailgate sessions. There were a couple of options, and while most of the people I saw went in the direction of the Dirtcom system, I couldn’t turn away an offer to snag a nearly new Rigd Ultraswing Multi-fit for a steal!

    There’s just something sporty about a tire on the back

    The Ultraswing Multi-fit is a spare tire hitch mount designed for light trucks and sun’s, can accommodate up to a 37″ tire, has an off-set accessory hitch for bike racks and other accessories, retains the capability of towing with up to a 10k lbs capacity, and it just looks cool with that orange flare on the handle. It has an anti-wobble design (truly works), supports a combined weight of 250 lbs, comes in at 65 lbs itself, comes with an integrated license plate bracket, a black powder-coat finish, and accepts a host of accessories.

    Solid construction and thick powder coat, and incorporated plate holder

    I wish I could say installation was a breeze, but it wasn’t for the Subaru Outback. Warranty be damned, I got it on, but it took some muscle. I started by backing the vehicle up on some ramps I borrowed from a neighbor. Once in the air, I used some channel locks to bend the spare tire wheel-well pinch weld down. I then used an aluminum pipe and a really big freaking hammer to pound it down further. I couldn’t seem to get the pinch weld flat enough so that the pin holes on the Ultraswing would line up with the pin holes on the Subaru factory hitch. I finally had enough, and the sledge hammer came out. A few good hits with that, and not only did the hitch fit perfectly but all the caked up dirt and mud in the rear quarters came falling out! I lined up the hitch using a locking trailer pin, then removed the pin and tightened the anti-wobble bolt before reinserting and locking the pin, thus making the rack irremovable without a key or a lot of elbow-grease.

    No worries with the UltraSwing wide open while loading

    Next up was to adjust the Ultraswing lugs to 5×4.5 (5×114.3) which was relatively simple. A few minutes later and the full size spare was hanging safely off the rear of the vehicle. While this system does completely block the rear camera, those of us who are older than sliced bread remember those neat analog devices they install called mirrors. I’m able to safely back in to my driveway or any parking space using those nice clean reflective surfaces and haven’t had an issue with rear-end spacing so far. It does make it a little difficult to enter the hatch area, and I’m worried one day I’ll forget and use either the key-fob or the interior button to access the hatch (and thereby hitting the hatch on the swing) but that day hasn’t come just yet.

    UltraSwing wide open with spare, full rotopax, Kuat and a bike.

    Initial impressions of the Ultraswing are very high. The swing is high quality and well built. The powder coating appears to be holding up extremely well. The accessory hitch has been used more than a few times to carry a Kuat NV2.0 bike rack with mountain bikes or road bikes on 6 hour trips across the state without any issue (a little wobble is noticeable, but that’s the Kuat and not the ultraswing as the spare tire doesn’t move an inch). I am enjoying the Rotopax mount and 2gal fuel container, but I do hope to add a Sidehack and UltraTable to my system shortly.

    Two new bikes loaded onto a Kuat NV2.0 attached to the Rig’d Supply UltraSwing

    The Rig’d Supply company is pretty active on Social Media and has shared a few of the BIKEWAGN posts and stories already. If you’re not following them, head over and check them out.

    Now, is this worth the price tag? It’s difficult for me to answer this as I lucked out on a lightly used product. Currently, as of June 2022, Rig’d is stating they have a 1 week lead time with UltraSwing’s in stock and the MSRP is currently $1599. This certainly comes in cheaper than the Dirtcom TrailSwing which is currently $1750 with a SIX WEEK lead time!

    Sitting in a parking lot in Charlotte, waiting to pick up some new bikes!

    If you have a genuine need for your spare tire to be relocated (carrying a fridge like we do, or an oversized tire), and are interested in the capabilities a hitch mounted spare tire and accessory mount may just be the ticket for you. For the time being, Rig’d is offering financing through Affirm to help make one of these pieces of American made, lifetime warrantied and patented hitch carriers yours!

  • 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness: 12000 miles of pain or pleasure?

    2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness:  12000 miles of pain or pleasure?

    I was not a Subaru person – until I was. But after so many years of hating the brand, the design, everything that I ‘thought’ it stood for, what is my impression after having driven 12,000 miles in my 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Edition within only 3 months? Is 4,000 miles a month of seat time enough to sway my stubborn views? Let’s start off with why I’m even driving one.

    I was driving a 2022 Volkswagen Arteon SEL-R Line and I absolutely adored this car. It was Lapis Blue, lowered on H&R VTF Adjustable coil overs, OEM+ look thanks to the H&R Trak+ spacers on the wheels, and I had plans for the APR tune and a full exhaust. I absolutely was enamored with this vehicle and everything about it. But, I’m a guy. I like to hike. We have 3 dogs. My son enjoys camping and bike riding. My daughter is an equestrian. My wife… she just needed help. And a lowered VW Arteon is many things; a barn vehicle is not one of them.

    I found myself in a position where I didn’t want my wife to drive the lowered vehicle, not really being accustomed to a lowered vehicle in the first place, and secondly not driving my baby! She was driving a 2018 4Runner Limited at the time and was used to the angles of entry to her work, the curb not being an issue, and the meaty sidewalls of her off-road tires. Now, mind you, she’s not a bad driver at all. Arguably so, if you were to look at our driving histories she is a saint compared to me, but nonetheless, I didn’t want her driving it and she needed help.

    So the day came I started looking at replacements. I knew I didn’t want two 4Runners, and she was unrelenting that she would drive anything OTHER than a 4Runner. We previously saw an Outback Wilderness and I liked the appearance; the slightly raised stance, the gold accents, and the badging that says “look at me, I’m wilderness-y.” Unfortunately, all reports said you had to wait months to get one in during early 2022. I made a few calls and found one at Capital Subaru of Greenville NC and within 6 hours, she was mine. More on that experience in another post. Suffice it to say, I was thrilled to be driving home in a capable AWD vehicle, and sadly wished my Arteon the best with it’s next family.

    In the time I’ve had the Outback, we’ve traveled many miles (12,000 obviously). I’ve been to the beach once (not on the sand that trip though), I’ve been to the mountains a couple of times, we’ve been camping a few times (once with a rooftop tent) and we’ve been on countless family adventures. During the entire time, the vehicle has had reasonable fuel efficiency, and acceptable comfort. In fact, it may be record time that I allowed our dogs into the vehicle before it even had 100 miles on the odometer (and I live 60 miles from the dealership!)

    But it’s not all roses. On a few occasions I’ve had to reset the radio/computer system because things would stop functioning. The EyeSight is annoyingly communicative. The seats are hot and restrict airflow. And that heater – my god that heater. It was winter and inside the car at 68* I was sweating. After a few weeks it seemingly acclimated itself and realized it was not in the frozen tundra, but it was miserable at the beginning.

    All in all I’ve been happy with my purchase. The culture is not what I expected. While I’m sure there a few that match the <insert your own> stereotype, I’ve found most people to be warm and welcoming. It will be interesting to see what the next 12000 miles hold, as we continue modifying our Outback to fit our needs, and look forward to attending events like Overland Expo East 2022.

    What are your thoughts on the Outback Wilderness? Do you own one, or are you considering the purchase? What drew you to Subaru, and what advise would you share with the next person that you met?

  • Initial thoughts and first look at our new 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

    Initial thoughts and first look at our new 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

  • Ray’s First Time Kayaking

    Ray’s First Time Kayaking

    For a while now I’ve wanted to get Brayden onto the water to Kayak and learn to fish. He has a love for fishing and gets excited at the simplest of bites, but also enjoys just being there even if nothing is taking his bait. I thought that a good way to get him out into the water to fish would be a kayak, as it forces you to both exert energy to reach your destination, plan where you want to go, and I feel as though you are more in-touch with nature. So when I came home with a kayak a week ago, Brayden was pretty excited. But when I came home with a SECOND kayak last week, Brayden was REALLY excited because he knew then, he just got himself a kayak!

    On Sunday, my wife and I loaded my Jackson Coosa FD into the back of my Tacoma using a BooneDox bed extension. We quickly realized there was no way that I was going to get Brayden’s Ascend 128T into the back of the truck also, without damage or risk. I also had to keep in mind that he’s 8, and when we got to our destination I had to be able to unload and reload these by myself. So, with that in mind I decided to make a change in the way we transport kayaks.

    At Lowe’s Home Improvement, I grabbed 4 bolts, 4 self locking nuts, 8 washers, 6 eye hooks, a tungsten 5/16″ drill bit, and 2 severe weather treated 2x4x8″ boards and proceeded to social distance in the check-out line. At home, I began measuring and laying out the parts. 4 quick holes into my metal utility trailer gave me hope for a quick turnaround. That hope was quickly shot as I realized the drill bit I picked up was 5/16″ and the bolts I picked up were 3/4″. Bonehead move for sure. So, rather than driving 20 minutes back to Lowe’s to exchange or buy another drill bit, wait in line again, and drive another 20 minutes home – I did what anyone would do… I worked that drill bit in circles until the ugliest holes appeared and I could slide the 3/4″ bolts through. From there, holes were drilled in the boards, boards were bolted to the trailer, holes where measured and drilled for the eye hooks which were then inserted, and finally a couple hours after my first realization that two big kayaks do not fit in this truck, I had a make-shift Kayak Trailer.

    So, we loaded the kayaks on the trailer again, and I strapped them down. After a couple of hours spent at the pool, we returned home and loaded the truck. The Tar River Reservoir located in Nash County, North Carolina, was fairly busy with boat traffic, but not so much boat traffic that I felt it unsafe to take the kayaks out. Most lakes on Memorial Day Weekend look like a Walmart parking lot on Black Friday – filled with ignorant people speeding all over the place. Here, we were able to cross the reservoir in a no wake zone, and then follow the bank around to a cut that I wanted Brayden to practice his kayaking in. I expected to need to pull him all over but shockingly to me – he was doing GREAT! I kept beside him and he did a fantastic job keeping the kayak in a straight line. He quickly picked up how to turn, how to turn in place, how to paddle backwards, and maintained control of his kayak and paddle the whole time. We turned on the Lowrance depthfinder on his kayak so that he could see what the bottom of the reservoir looked like and he noticed there were some fish.

    We didn’t have any fishing tackle or rods for Brayden as I really wanted to see him kayak first. Once I felt comfortable he could manage, I took the one rod I brought and began casting around the little cut. One fish was caught (in the gill, no less) and we released him. I was told it was a Goggle-Eye, a first for me. Finally, it was nearing sunset and we decided to paddle back in to shore. I was so happy with how Brayden did and made sure he knew it. I promised to take him out again, soon, and let him try his luck casting on the kayak. A man on the bank was nice enough to help me load both kayaks up as we chatted. It was his first time in a kayak that day as well. With everything secured and strapped down, we made our way home – a 15-20 minute drive – and cleaned up. After showers and snack time (for Brayden), we made our way to bed and wrapped another great day of Father-Son bonding.

  • PandemiCamping


    The year 2020 was supposed to have flying cars, those “replicators” from Star Trek that instantly materialized a breakfast burrito, and Internet that doesn’t lag. Instead, kids are eating Tide-Pods, Joe Exotic came back, and The United States put everyone on house-arrest, unless you’re “essential” like Healthcare, Public Safety, or Grocery.

    We also learned that amidst the “Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020” that we needed to be socially distanced. What that is supposed to mean is that everyone stays 6 feet apart, however what it looks like is complete shut down of public facilities. So, being that we love camping, and we were all in need of a break, new friends banded together to practice #DistancedButSocial and took to the mountains of North Carolina.

    Fun fact… we will be celebrating Cinco De Mayo at home on Taco Tuesday because of a virus named after a Mexican beer.

    I left the house early on Friday. When I say early, it’s because I was supposed to work till 5. 5 to me, is actually 4 because I start my day earlier so that I can get more accomplished. But on this particular Friday it was exceptionally rough. So, I threw the laptop on the passenger seat, connected to my hotspot, and took my calls from the highway. I had completed all of my work already, and so I just needed to be available for anything that may arise. I figure, working remotely means I can work anywhere, so as long as I had my stuff with me, I could easily pull over and address any concerns that needed my attention.

    Working “Remotely”

    I arrived at Old NC105 which feeds into the Pisgah National Forrest around 6pm. It’s a fun gravel road which winds through the mountains on the back way into Wisemans View. On the right are gorgeous views of Table Rock, looking in the direction of Grandfather Mountain. To the left, are other amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I stopped along the way up and took some pictures while I searched for the people I would be camping with. @Jess_The_JK and @TinyTanTank were supposed to meet me here.

    I bumped into @Jess_The_JK (Enrique and Kate) and we stopped at Wisemans View to “rehydrate.” @TinyTanTank (Matt) was supposed to be just behind me but after a couple of hours, we decided to setup camp and start a campfire and just let him locate us. When Matt showed up, we met his friend Kate, and his dog Oden. After camp was set up, we all stood around a small campfire chatting about all things until we heard a familiar sound – the sound of a police siren followed by “Police Officer”. We were informed camping was not allowed because of the “state of emergency.” So apparently, while they want us socially distanced, the most socially distant thing you can do is off limits. We were polite, and in return he “allowed” us to stay until Morning.

    Around 1:30 am we all fell asleep. I slept about 3 hours total, and around 6:00 AM decided to just get up. I woke, searched for my coffee rig (an AeroPress and JetBoil combination) and proceeded replenishing my caffeine intake. I watched as the sun came up over Table Rock, walked around camp a bit and waited till the rest of the crew arose (around 9:30). Once camp was packed up, Matt had connected with a friend of his and secured us a dispersed campsite on the New River near Boone on private land so we proceeded to ride through town on our way there. A quick stop for fuel, restrooms, and for them to get some McDonalds resulted in finding out Enrique had blown his driver-side sway bar connect. Thankfully, it is a relatively inexpensive repair and no other damage was done. We arrived at Dollar General for some additional supplies and met with Matt’s Friend Jeff.

    Navigating the trails

    A short drive away we reached the winding trails that would take us to the private land. Man… the first true trails I would be taking the Tacoma on. To add to the anxiety, I had Rachel’s dog (Rachel is Matt’s sister and came along to ground-camp) in my truck. Going up some sketchy trails, I ended up putting the truck in 4LO and she did great – up and until “Tilley” (the dog) nailed my truck into neutral. I thought I blew a driveshaft or something! Thankfully, putting the truck back in drive we were good to go until Jeff realized he went the wrong way and we all got to enjoy the luxury of on-trail turnaround. Enrique went 3 wheels on ground as he turned around, and I tucked my back driver tire all the way up in the pocket as I made my reverse. But once we arrived at the site there was one last thing to do …. a huge mud pit. Next time, maybe I’ll remember to roll the windows up!

    Sitting around the 4-Star Hollar

    Camp was setup and we all sat around talking for a while. The weather was perfect – a little warm in the sun, a little cool in the shade. Eventually, Jeff setup a pretty good campfire and we all transitioned to sitting around that. Dinner’s started cooking, and we all continued to “rehydrate” when all of a sudden a mason jar of “not-water” started passing around. I’ve had some before, but this was probably the best “not-water” I’ve had. We decided that because of the views, the campfire, the sounds of nature, and the friendship – this would be called the “4 Star Hollar”. It would have been 5-stars, but apparently the other campsite (which was being used) is a little better.

    Around 10:30pm we were all spent, and agreed to call it a night. We packed our things and climbed in our tents. Enrique and Kate in their Alu-Cab, Rachel and Tilley in her ground tent, Matt, Kara and Oden in his CVT Mt Rainier Summit Extended, and me in my CVT Mt Rainier Summit standard. I had the best sleep ever in that tent this night and woke the next morning feeling great. I laid in the tent looking up through the sky panels in my tent at the sky as the black turned light blue, then lighter, and finally blue as the sun was up and above the horizon. I changed into fresh clothes and started packing my things (my ritual in the morning to make tear down of camp quick and painless). Once everything was packed, I opened up the vents to make folding the tent up a little easier, and laid inside watching the New River flow by, listening to nature, and just soaking up the last few minutes of PandemiCamping.

    Overlooking the New River

    I was ready to get home to see my kids, and Enrique and Kate knew they had to take their drive slowly with their sway bar disconnected so we shook hands with everyone and wished them well. Matt, Kara, Rachel, Jeff, Oden, Tilley and Jeff’s dog Boone stayed to enjoy some trail action while Enrique, Kate and I started our trip back up the trail to the main road. I used Crawl Control in my Tacoma just to see how it worked and it did great. Wasn’t necessary but it had some cool factor. As we left the property and came to the stop sign at the end of the road, Enrique and Kate turned right and I turned Left, thus ending our time together as new friends. 3 and a half hours later I was pulling in my driveway, tired from a lot of driving, a little sunburnt from enjoying the weather and driving home with all the windows down, and ready to unpack and spend some time with the kids.

    Matt, Kara, Enrique, Kate, Rachel and Jeff – thanks for the awesome trip!

    Tilley – thanks for not causing us to wreck.

    Oden…. thanks for not biting me!

  • Boone


    Boone, North Carolina, is a beautiful town along the Blue Ridge Mountains where my family enjoys visiting. We often times will visit Tweetsie Railroad, Dan’l Boone Inn (GREAT food), Mast General Store, and as of 2019 we pick our Christmas Tree here. But, this is less a story of Boone, NC and more a story of Boone in Tennessee.

    Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 at 9:41 PM I receive a message on Facebook from the breeder we picked up my son’s dog from, Biscuit. “I have a sweet college student that is needing to rehome her boy she got from me. He is under a year old. He and Biscuit are half brothers. I thought I would ask you guys.” followed by this photo.

    I woke up Thursday morning and was immediately interested. I lost Brody, my Cocker Spaniel I never knew I wanted in 2019. He was my sidekick, my best bud, and helped me learn through new marriage ups and downs, two births of children, multiple career highs and lows, and the loss of my mother to cancer. This pup looked like a Buff version of Brody, with his shaggy, less than show-quality appearance. We were young and didn’t know how to properly care and raise a dog, but Brody never minded. Now, after having hurt for so long after losing him, it seemed as though I was going to be offered an opportunity to try again.

    After connecting with the owner, Jamie S, I learned that this pup’s name was Boone and he was 6 years old. We talked about his current health, what he needed, and how his personality had formed so far. We made arrangements to drive up on Saturday to Chattanooga, TN where Boone lived, and meet Sunday morning. Boone was behind on his shots at the time, so I called my vet and got their blessing to bring along my sons dog, Biscuit. Biscuit was current on all vaccines, so our vet was comfortable with his meeting Boone. With my awesome vet’s approval, we made arrangements to take Biscuit on his first overnight trip out of North Carolina.

    On the way to Tennessee!

    Biscuit traveled amazingly well. Brayden kept him in his lap, and Biscuit was calm and really great in the truck. We stopped every few hours to let him run around and potty, but all in all he was just happy to be with his buddy (Brayden). We arrived in Chattanooga, TN around 6:30 on Saturday night, tired of driving and hungry. We checked in at the Staybridge Suites in Chattanooga near the state line, and had a great experience and room. Hat’s off to Elliot at the front desk for making our check in process so easy and pleasant. We went up to our room and fed Biscuit and walked him so that we could ultimately head off to our own dinner (which would have to be without Biscuit as we just didn’t know if there were any dog friendly venues around).

    Let’s be real: no trip to the mountains is complete without a visit to either Mast General Store or REI, so we settled on REI which was near by. I returned a pair of pants that didn’t fit comfortably, and we settled on a Mellow Mushroom nearby to eat dinner. Everyone was giving us strange looks for wearing matching Duke Blue Devils hoodies in the land of Tennessee, but Saturday happened to be the “Battle of the Blues”, where Duke and UNC meet to battle out their long time rivalry. This game was for the history books, as UNC lead the score for the majority of the game at the Dean Dome, only to be met with a tie-matching shot right at the buzzer. Overtime was just as chaotic, as UNC pulled ahead, only to be met with a game winning shot again, right at the buzzer. We were ecstatic! We watched the overtime period as we walked around Academy Sports picking up some Soccer gear for Brayden.

    When we got back to the hotel, walked Biscuit, and finished our showers, Biscuit settled in relatively quickly in a new environment and so did we. It was a short night, going to bed around 10:30 or 11pm, and waking around 5:30AM, but we had a big day on Sunday to keep us energized!

    Ray doing his reading while Biscuit enjoys the king size bed

    Sunday morning, 7am. We arrive at the Cracker Barrel less than a 1/4 mile from our hotel literally at the same time as Jamie and Boone. We let Biscuit and Boone sniff each other out and it was a GREAT first meeting. Both dogs got along great with no aggression and some play. Boone submitted first, laying down in front of Biscuit, allowing Biscuit to be the Alpha. At this point, I was happy that I read a little on dog psychology and could read the cues. Jamie was very friendly. This can’t be an easy thing to go through, and she was comfortable that Boone would have a great life with us back in eastern North Carolina. So, after about 30 minutes of the pups getting to know each other, and Jamie and I chatting, it was time to load the pups in the Tacoma and head east for the land of slightly warmer temperatures.

    Biscuit was loaded into his kennel in the back seat this time, as I felt it was too unsafe to have two loose dogs in the vehicle. Boone was next up, going into his kennel as well. As we said our goodbye’s, I assured Jamie that he was in good hands and that I would be happy to keep her in the loop on how he is enjoying life if she wanted me to. We departed from Cracker Barrel and started our early trip home. GPS was showing we should be home at 3pm, but I knew with gas, potty, and food stops it’d likely be closer to 4pm. Boone barked and whimpered for a little bit as we set off on our trip home, but he settled relatively quickly.

    Driving was relatively boring. One fun thing to mention is Brayden managed to stay awake both times the entire drive, yet on the way home as we are turning into our area he started to nod off. While we were driving home, I reached out to our groomer and told her we needed an intervention! Our groomer is amazing and had me bring Boone by her place so that she could take her time with him, allowing him to get comfortable with the grooming process. What came back from the groomers was a completely different pup!

    Boone settled in his first night with us really quickly – falling asleep just a couple of minutes into being crated. He barked just a bit, but quieted down quickly. While we have had a couple little accidents inside, they’ve been minor and are likely due to the amount of excitement and play time he’s getting. He’s a thirsty boy, and is eating well. His pads are a little sore as they had previously been covered with hair, so he’s ok walking around in our yard, but doesn’t particularly like walking on the road or the driveway. We are working with him on socialization, but all signs currently point to this pup being an amazing side kick and member of our family.

  • Appalachian Trail: Walnut Mountain Road to 19E

    Appalachian Trail: Walnut Mountain Road to 19E

    This is a story of three guys. Three guys that previously trekked the warm Carver’s Gap to 19E together one September day. Well, it was supposed to be over two days, but it was done in one. It was done in one because one guy had a messed up knee, he and another guy (me) sprained ankles, and the third guy …. well he was used to this kind of stuff.

    So, having passed a few months, we decided it was time to go back out for another hike. This time, our 4th couldn’t make it, and we also decided a single day hike was a better option. We settled on a roughly 9-10 mile trek starting at Walnut Mountain Road and hiking back to our Hostel on 19E. We planned to leave on a Friday morning, head up to REI (of course), continue on to lunch in Boone, and end our trip at our Hostel, the Mountain Harbour Hostel. We would do some light trekking for the views, and finish the night with dinner, a campfire and 1 or 3 beers. Saturday morning was to include coffee, the famous Mountain Harbour Hostel breakfast, and a one way trip to our starting point. We figured we could hike back, clean up, grab dinner on the way home and be back in Eastern NC by 8pm.

    Friday morning came early. After I checked and re-checked my back, I loaded up my wife’s 4Runner. Last time we hiked, I rode with Steve in his Ford Expedition, but since some winter weather was expected we figured 4WD would be a good thing to have. My Toyota Tacoma was a bit too small for 3 big guys (Steve being over 6 foot I’m sure), so I bribed begged pleaded asked my wife if we could swap vehicles for a couple days and reluctantly of course she was more than willing to let me borrow her 4Runner as long as I cleaned it after and filled it back up with gas without anything required in return. After picking up Chris and then Steve, we started our trip out to REI (because no hiking trip can start until you’ve offered a sacrifice at the Mecca of Camping and Hiking). Some lunch a while later, and a stop in Boone at MAST General Store and Footsloggers (just because), had us getting to the Hostel a little later than we had planned. All was good though as we stepped inside the familiar barn and claimed our bed for the night.

    Staying at the Hostel with us were 3 other men. Juan Pablo was there for night skiing and I never saw him. Mark, a Paintless Dent Removal guy from the area was staying while going through a nasty divorce. He had the coolest diesel van, and apparently his wife had his Tesla “down in the holler”. And Patrick the accountant from Atlanta shared with us all his stories of our door escapades while resting from his trip up for Skiing. Chris, Steve, and I hung out at the Hostel, and took a trip over to the other Hostel for one beer, before heading back to settle in for the evening.

    Saturday morning came early, and Steve and I walked up to get our coffee and confirmed that one of the families from last time was staying here again at the same time as us – what a coincidence. Breakfast was unreal as expected…. French toast, lemon strudel, some kind of egg soufflé, home made pork sausage patties, home style potatoes, and biscuits with gravy. A plate and a half was had before determining it was time to take a step back from the table and get my back ready to go.

    I’m not sure what my pack weighed as I took things out when I reached the car, but starting weight was around 11 lbs. I’d guess my weight carried in the back was somewhere between 10-12 lbs for the day hike, with the weight being from water, a Rumpl blanket (just to fill up the pack a bit), a down coat, rain coat, gloves, hat, trek poles, and some miscellaneous goodies.

    We learned that years ago the Sheriff’s Department wouldn’t even go in this area of Tennessee, which I found interesting given my background. I never knew a law enforcement agency scared to meet a threat head on – so I think this is mostly folk lore meant to add to the awe of the trail and area. We were dropped off on Walnut Mountain Road and started our 10 mile hike back to the Hostel (which ended up being 11.63 according to Garmin, but who’s counting).

    A short while in, we stopped at a Shelter to take a break from walking and see the area. What we found was a strange bird. We weren’t sure if this was a pheasant, quail, Ethiopian tigerswallow, cow, etc…. but it sure came very close to us. We walked along the Eno River for a bit and took another short break. I took the opportunity to skip rocks on the Eno River – something that just seemed right.

    All in all it was a great trip. Chris’ knee’s held up, I didn’t sprain an ankle and my back (herniated disc) held up, and Steve came through unscathed. We determined 10 miles in a day is a good distance for us – and planned our next to be around April 2020, at which point we’ll plan to hike slower and take more opportunities to stop and enjoy nature.

    So, just like last time – I wont bore you with more words and instead, will share with you the photos of this amazing trip with friends…

  • Appalachian Trail: Carver’s Gap to 19E

    Appalachian Trail: Carver’s Gap to 19E

    A few months ago, a friend of mine brought up the topic of Hiking. He and an acquaintance of mine would hike a couple times a year, and the photos always looked amazing. We thought it would be fun to go on a hike together, so a date was picked and I had little belief that it would actually happen. But, plans were made and the trip was getting closer and closer.

    On Friday, September 20th, we left Eastern North Carolina before lunch on our way to Eastern Tennessee. Of course, we had to make a pit stop at REI because what outdoor excursion would be complete without stopping here. I left with a cup and camping spork.

    Along the way, we decided it was time to grab dinner. The Pickin’ Pig BBQ place had a 4 star review, and we were starving and looking for something to eat on the right side of the road so it made sense to check it out. We got some complimentary hush puppies and ordered more. There were 4 of us, and we ended up ordering 2 of the sampler platters to share.

    We arrived at the Mountain Harbour Hostel and checked in. I was excited, and a little concerned over what our stay would entail. Once I walked inside the Hostel though, I was amazed at how cool it was inside. We checked in and found our beds and met another family that was staying with their 9 year old girl. We cracked open a beverage to toast our upcoming adventure and determined a change of venue may be in order. There was another Hostel up the road that advertised music.

    After checking out The Station at 19E, we went back to our Hostel and setup a campfire. Everything was going great until one of our party blew out the fire – no lie! We laughed and cracked jokes and rebuilt the fire even better. After a few more beverages, it was time to head to bed. Breakfast would come early, and our shuttle to Carver’s Gap would be right after. None of us slept well – accusing each other of snoring and making noise.

    The next morning, after trying to locate coffee, we walked up to the main building and were treated to an amazing breakfast. French toast, eggs, pastry, and excellent coffee. But, shortly after breakfast, it was time to load in the van and head off to Carver’s Gap.

    I wont bore you with more words and instead, will share with you the photos of this amazing trip with friends…

  • CampWithDad goes Geocaching

    CampWithDad goes Geocaching

    Geocaching. It’s like a higher-tech version of Hide and Seek. It gets you outdoors; it gets you mobile; and for kids they still get to play with their technology while doing something you could ACTUALLY do with a compass and map! So, when I approached Ray about going Geocaching he was thrilled.

    We set out for a Geocache only 2 miles from our home. I had previously been here and could not locate the cache, but I had hopes that with my side kick, we would secure a smiley (Geocaching term for when you find the cache).

    This past Saturday we drove to roughly 10 different caches, with most being a smiley face. When Ray’s app finally finished downloading (his internet was metered because he exhausted all of his internet due to our home router acting up), we caught him up to speed on his finds and I taught him the appropriate way to thank someone for hiding a cache. We made the hour long trip west towards Raleigh so that we could drop off his first Trackable he found (Helium the Alien) and caught a movie, and then set off for a couple more caches on our way home.

    What blew my mind – when we got home, somehow he convinced his mother to take him BACK out geocaching some more!

    On Sunday, after church and after my run, Ray wanted to go out yet again. We found a couple of “Park and Grab” geocaches as my legs were toast from exercising. It was very warm out, so we kept it short.

    At this point, Ray wants to get the premium membership to Geocaching’s app, but he’s got to prove to me on more than one weekend that this is something he wants to keep doing. Our next project will be to create a Go-Bag for him, full of writing utensils, replacement logs, replacement cache containers, and tools to aid in the hunt. Oh, and we want to add a Trackable to the back of the “CampWithDad-mobile”

    If you haven’t tried Geocaching, get out there and give it a shot! The app is free and it is very easy to use. Setup is as simple as an email address, username, and password followed by an email address validation. Premium membership offers increased filtering on Cache’s, as well as a few other perks.

    So, with all that said, if you do Geocache or you join, please send us a friend request! We’d love to connect. You can find us on Geocaching’s site as “CampWithDad” and “CampWithRay”.

    Have you Geocached? Leave us a comment!

  • RinseKit: Because sometimes you need to wash your…

    RinseKit: Because sometimes you need to wash your…

    Have you ever gone on a primitive camping trip and thought to yourself, “Self, I wish I could just wash my face or hair”? Or maybe you were fishing, and after picking up a particularly slimy fish, you thought it would be nice to wash your hands? Or, maybe you went for a nice long run and you just want to cool off? OR maybe you took the dogs to the beach, and you need to give them water and cool them off? OR… maybe there is another scenario I haven’t thought of where you just wish you could have cleaned up…enter, the RinseKit!

    So, in full disclosure, RinseKit was willing to allow Camp With Dad the opportunity to review one of their awesome RinseKit setups and asked that I do something pretty cool after I post my review. More on that, at the end of the post, but for now I want to share my experiences with the RinseKit over the past two months and how I’ve been able to use it to make our life easier and more enjoyable.

    I chose to review the medium sized unit, the RinseKit Plus. This unit boasts up to 5 Minutes of pressurized spray and 2 gallons of hot or cold water. It can be filled using a garden hose, spigot, sink, or even just pouring water in and using a pump (available separately, or with the Adventure Bundle). There is even a heater unit that allows you to heat your water for a nice relaxing outdoor camp shower!

    RinseKit was awesome enough to send me the Adventure Bundle which came with the pressure booster pump, Hot Rod water heater, and a really neat microfiber towel/seat cover. But even the regular RinseKit will come with a nozzle, 6 foot long hose, hose bib adapter, hot water sink adapter, an on/off valve and quick connect. One neat thing about the lid of the RinseKit plus is that it is removable and can be used as a base to stand on or a cutting board.

    My first opportunity to use the RinseKit was on a short solo overnight trip to the NC Mountains. There, the RinseKit came in handy for washing off my utensils at the end of a small meal. Once I was tucked in to bed, a huge storm came out of nowhere and the next day I found everything to have a nice little muddy residue. The RinseKit had just enough capacity to clean everything off before packing, which made my “cleaning” ritual upon return home so much easier.

    The next opportunity was with the family at the North Carolina Outer Banks. We had a TON of fun out on the sand at the historic Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but when it was time to head home, it was also time to wash off the kids feet, legs, and well…the kids in general (Thanks honey for burying the kids). For this task, I would have benefitted from the RinseKit Lux which is a 3 gallon version featuring 8 minutes of spray and doubles as a cooler. We ran out of water as soon as it was my turn, but thankfully I wasn’t too sandy.

    Being a runner (even slow runners are runners), I tend to pick the worst time to go for a run. This time, the temp was in the mid-to-upper 90’s, and since I’m in North Carolina the Humidity is always high. I figured I’d let my son have some fun cooling me off when I got home, so before I left I made sure to fill up the RinseKit with some nice cold water! The result was amazing and worth the laughs as well.

    Construction of the Plus is impressive. It feels very durable; the handle is thick and well constructed and the walls of the unit seem to be rigid as well. The RinseKit bounced all over the back of my truck as we drove through Corolla, the north most part of the NC Outer Banks (if it were not for a fence, you could drive straight into Virginia Beach).

    Right now, you can pick up a RinseKit for as little as $89.95 (The Pod) or as much as $294.95 (the Lux, when not on sale). My RinseKit Plus Adventure Bundle would set you back $269.95 currently, which is why it is so amazing of RinseKit to allow me to GIVE ONE AWAY FOR FREE!

    That’s right! We will be giving away a RinseKit for free and all you have to do is the following:

    1. Follow @CampWithDad and @RinseKit on Instagram
    2. Like CampWithDad and RinseKit on Facebook
    3. Comment on our Instagram or Facebook Post with how you intend to use the RinseKit, and tag one friend!

    That’s it! There is no purchase necessary, you must be located within the continental United States, and be of 18 years of age. Odds of winning are dependent on how many entries there are, and the winner will be selected at random and will have 1 week to claim their prize. If the winner does not claim their prize, a second winner will be chosen. If that winner does not claim their prize within one week, we will retain the prize for a future giveaway.