Monthly Archives: October 2012

Gear Review: Marmot Ajax 3 Tent

While I’m somewhat of an advanced beginner when it comes to backpacking, I have to say that I do have my preferences when it comes to gear. I don’t even own this tent, but I’ve borrowed it once or twice from a friend of mine. It has become my FAVORITE bargain 3 person backpacking tent ever!!

The bomb.com tent

The best thing about the Ajax 3 is that it’s truly a 3 person tent – it’s not a 2 person tent masquerading as a 3 person tent (yes, I do put a lot of my gear outside of my tent when I go backpacking, I’m not that high-maintenance).  It has a very simple 2/3 pole set up for the main body of the tent, but the best part about it is that it has a cross-bar brow pole on the top to pull the sides of the tent by the doors up and out. Sitting up in this tent and hanging out with other folks is totally feasible. I never felt claustrophobic or squished at any time. Its spacious headroom coupled with the two very big doors on either side of the tent means that if the person sitting “b!tch” in the center of the tent needs to get out in the middle of the night to pee, it’s not that big of a deal.

Botchers Gap camp: Camille wakes up in the middle

Plus, how could you not LOVE the wrap-around mesh on this tent!? Perfect for stargazing on warm or cool nights. When it gets a little cold, I just put the fly half-on and leave the side covering the tent door wide open so I can still fall asleep looking at the stars. That blue and orange is FTW too!

The only drawback is that it’s not the lightest tent if you’re trying to be an ultra-lighter. At 6 lbs. 2 oz., you could find a much lighter backpacking tent, but it probably won’t be as spacious or as comfortable at this price. Plus if there’s 3 of you camping, that just means that each of you carry about 2 lbs. in your packs.

More on the specs:

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Analog Girl’s Five Commandments for Backpacking and Camping

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, this past summer I planned and organized 3 car camping trips and 2 backpacking trips from as early as February of this year. As much as I LOOOVVVE camping and backpacking, organizing those trips and coordinating everyone together becomes a pretty laborious process. It’s like herding cats. I now have a “NO INVITE” list of people that are no longer going to be included on my trips. Sorry, don’t take it personally – you’re still my friend! If you organize a trip, we’ll play by your rules. But when I organize a trip, these are mine.

I prefer to be a happy camper. Or a happy climber. Whichever.

In no particular order:

RULE #1: PLEASE DO NOT FLAKE

Unless you have an extremely good excuse (like someone dying, like you breaking a leg), please, please, PLEASE do not flake on a camping or backpacking trip! I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s hard to plan a trip when you don’t know how many people are coming. It affects cooking shifts, who brings what food, how to divvy up the supplies and the costs of the trip, car rides there, and just plain ol’ organizing fun activities. I take people’s interests and what they like to do into account when I plan my trips, so when people don’t show up it’s just hard to reorganize. I also try to make things simple so that no one else has to do very much, and I do try to ensure that the trips have enough people so that everyone has a good time.

RULE #2: NO WHINING 

That also means complaining, being a “Debbie Downer”, and having an attitude about what we’re doing during the trip. Make the best out of the experience! Complaining when things go obviously wrong, or when things are sloppy is okay (sans negative attitude perhaps). As mentioned above, I try to take everyone’s feedback into account when planning these trips. The hard part is that people don’t always know what they DO like, but they often know what they DON’T like (when it arises, not beforehand). If you don’t want to do the activity that most of the group wants to do, you don’t have to do it. Not a big deal! We can split up and regroup later. However, if you really don’t like how the trip is going, it might have been a good idea to choose to not go in the first place.

I had to convince people to go to Horsetail Falls. Totally worth it! Reem and I were obviously all about it.

RULE #3: IF YOU GO ON A TRIP WITH ME, KNOW THAT I LIKE TO BE ACTIVE

Everyone has a different camping, hiking, or backpacking style. I’m not the type of person who does 20 mile days (I like to take photos and make stops at nice places), but I do want to make the most out of any location that I’m at. That means when I go backpacking through an amazingly beautiful wilderness area, I want to see new sights, climb mountains, swim in lakes, and go places. I don’t plan on sticking by the campsite all day long and sleeping, or just going swimming for an entire day (this only applies to backpacking. If we’re car camping, that’s okay). To me that’s just glorified picnicking. A day of rest is okay, but more than a day makes me sad. I also like to be active during the day (as opposed to only being active in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler). If you don’t like to hike or go swimming during daylight hours, you won’t want to go camping or backpacking with me. I also don’t tend to wake up before 7 or 8 am unless 1) it’s wayyy too hot to hike during the day, 2) I’m trying to cover some serious distance when backpacking, or – 3) I’m trying to see an amazing sunrise. See Rule #2 again.

An exception to the “no getting up before 8 am” rule

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Day Hiking to Alamere Falls, Pt. Reyes

Every year, my friend Bo takes a trip back to the Bay from his home in Shanghai and wants to do something “outdoorsy”. On his first trip back, we camped in Yosemite and did the monstrous all-day hike to Half Dome. The next year, we camped in Tahoe and did a day hike to Susie Lake in Desolation Wilderness. The next two visits were short trips, so we only had enough time to do day hikes to Mt. Tamalpais and Pt. Reyes. While I love Mt. Tam and Muir Woods, Pt. Reyes has to be one of my all time Bay Area favorites.

Bo wanted to be exposed to some of the best hiking that the Bay Area has to offer, so I thought I’d take him on the scenic (albeit mild) hike to Alamere falls (he usually wants a longer and a more rigorous hike, a la Half Dome – but I know of very few enjoyable and SCENIC hikes of that caliber within two hours of Oakland. If anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way).

While the hike was not that challenging, it didn’t matter – we couldn’t have asked for more amazing weather or a more picturesque day!

The famous Pt. Reyes shoreline

The view from the Coast Trail

To get to the start of the hike at the Palomarin trailhead, you basically go towards Stinson Beach but keep going up Hwy 1 until you reach the town of Olema. After that point, you must drive on an unpaved dirt road (bring the 4 Runner!) for a mile or so until you reach the trailhead parking lot.

At Palomarin, you have a few options…

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