Step Outside WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdn-step.americantowns.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Sat, 22 Jun 2024 02:04:23 -0500 Kayak Safety: 5 Essential Survival Skills to Know Sitting atop a kayak on the water is a great way to experience nature from a new vantage point. Whether you're embarking on a leisurely journey on a local lake or navigating tricky rapids, there's nothing quite like a paddling adventure. But before you go, there are a few basic survival skills every kayaker should have in their tool belt. You never know when you might get caught in a precarious situation. Here are a few essential skills to know before go.  

While the more swimming experience you can get under your belt, the better, it is crucial to know at least a few swimming basics before you head out onto the water under any circumstances. You need to know how to float to keep your head above water, as well as how to propel yourself toward safety. Many organizations offer, such as the Red Cross and the YMCA, offer inexpensive adult swimming lessons across the United States, as do many municipalities. A couple of lessons in a local pool could mean the difference between life and death on a local lake.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), or lifejackets, are required attire throughout the country. When you’re out paddling, it’s important not only to have a lifejacket but to wear it. When choosing a PFD, look for one that’s tailored for the type of paddling that you’ll be doing: flatwater, open water, river, angling, etc. You may need pockets and anchor points for specific types of gear, like a smartphone, a flybox, or a compass. Once you’ve picked the type of PFD you want, make sure it fits snugly and won’t rise off your shoulders in the event of a capsize. Practice a few strokes while you’re in the store to ensure that you can paddle comfortably while wearing the PFD—all the fit and customization won’t make a difference if you’re miserable paddling in it. 

You may not think that what to wear is such a big deal when it comes to paddling, but it is an important consideration to keep you safe when you’re out on the water. The first thing you need to consider is the materials that you choose. Fabrics like cotton absorb water and do not dry quickly. In cooler weather, this could lead to a hypothermia situation. And if you find yourself in the water, absorbent cotton and similar fabrics are heavy and can weigh you down—something you don’t need when you’re trying to get back into your boat. Choose lightweight, technical materials that are water repellent. In cooler weather, wear a waterproof outer layer. If you’re paddling in a place where water temperatures are cold, like the Great Lakes, consider wearing a dry suit or a wetsuit that’s 5mm or thicker. You’ll also need sun protection. A hat is important, as is sunscreen, sunglasses, and a neck gaiter you can pull over your face to protect from glare off the water. Long sleeves are also a good idea for prolonged paddling in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.

If you capsize or are thrown from your boat while paddling, you must know how to get back into your kayak. You can find several techniques for doing so online. Places like REI offer classes that teach you basic techniques like this. Whether you learn the technique from YouTube or take a class, there is no substitute for practicing getting back into your kayak on your own. Start in shallow water, always wear a PFD, and bring a friend along to spot for you. 

Rolling your kayak is an advanced skill that can be absolutely crucial in a river or sea kayaking situation where you’re skirted into your boat. You can find the maneuver demonstrated online, but this is not a technique to practice on your own. Either work with a friend in water deep enough to avoid hitting your head on the bottom or take a class from a reputable source like REI. When practicing this maneuver, always wear a PFD and a helmet, and never do it alone.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/kayak-safety-5-essential-survival-skills-to-know http://stepoutside.org/article/kayak-safety-5-essential-survival-skills-to-know Thu, 20 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
14 Amazing New Ski Products for 2024 Ski season is finally here and a new trove of quality gear items are arriving at your local ski shop just in time. Here are some of this season’s hottest new gear items; designed to get you and your gear to your favorite ski destination with ease and keep your comfortable on the slopes no matter what the conditions are. They make great holiday gifts, too!

Famous for their rooftop cargo carriers and bike racks, Thule’s Round Trip Collection offers a whole new line of accessories for skiers and snowboarders. From ski totes with wheels to boot backpacks that feature a standing mat so you can change into your boots in the parking lot without stepping on the ground, to duffels designed to carry all of your ski/snowboard gear, Thule’s got you covered.

Now you can keep your hands toasty warm with new Heattouch™ Atlas mid-gloves from Serius. These gloves feature USB-rechargeable batteries that charge in just four hours. And thanks to Soundtouch™ technology, you don't have to take them off to use your devices. The slim under-cuff maximizes the barely-there feeling of the battery pouch in a low-profile design that maximizes warmth and minimizes bulk—perfect for wearing on the slopes or around town.

Designed for advanced skiers wanting a stiffer boot, the BOA lacing system offers the ultimate precision fit for comfort and performance straight out of the box, regardless of your foot size or width. No more messing with hard-to-snap buckles. Simply turn the micro-adjustable dial down to loosen the stainless steel laces for those long trips up the chair when you want to give your feet a break, then crank it back down to hit the bumps. The Boa system is available on boots from many of the top makers including Atomic, K-2, Fischer, and Salomon.

New for the ’24 winter season, the Airblaster Ninja Suit Pro II protects you from falling snow and icy, ridgetop blasts. At the hood and shoulders, four-way stretch Schoeller® Nanosphere® softshell provides incredible water repellency and breathability, while the main body features new AirTech 3D-Eco™ microfleece fabric for dynamic warmth and moisture management. At the wrists and ankles, a durable low-profile compression fabric rounds out the superior function of this amazingly warm base layer.

Keeping your head warm and ears from freezing while adding style to your ski or snowboard wardrobe is as easy as choosing one of the great ski hats from the full line of headwear from Autumn Products. Available in an amazing assortment of colors, these medium-weight beanies feature a three-inch cuff to keep your ears toasty warm while the Acrylic weave offers good breathability—perfect for winter sports and cold-weather camping.

Whether you ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or just want to wear a comfortable outer layer for winter hikes, TREW Capow Bibs are an awesome way to go. Made using a Dermizax EV Membrane, these bibs are lightweight, water resistant, and breathable. Ample venting helps you control heat and internal boot gaiters with boot-strap accommodations help keep out the snow. Long front and side zippers make them easy to pull on and off, and there are plenty of zippered pockets for stowing all of your smaller items.

Tired of bag-dragging all of your ski gear through airports? Make getting to your favorite ski slope easy with one of Eagle Creek’s new Cargo Haulers. Available in a backpackable duffel version with stow-away straps or a wheeled version for carrying even heavier loads, Eagle Creek’s Cargo Duffel and Cargo Hauler XT come in three sizes from a compact carry-on to larger sizes that will fit helmets, boots, heavy parkas, and more. And the travel gear experts at Eagle Creek offer all kinds of compression sacks and garment folders to keep everything in your duffel organized.

Stay protected in the roughest winter weather with the Ridge Merino’s Aspect Balaclava Hood. Ridge took their best-selling Aspect base layer and added a super-protective balaclava to the design that provides a perfect seal from the elements on cold and windy days. Made using 84% Merino Wool and 16% Nylon, this headpiece provides warmth, breathability, and comfort without the itch. Natural fibers wick moisture away from your skin to prevent clamminess and the antimicrobial qualities of Merino wool naturally and permanently resist odor without the use of chemicals.

Always on the front line of innovation, Gordini offers a full range of glove and mitts that cover every winter sport from downhill to backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. Choose from a wide range of styles and designs including their Forge heated gloves and gloves and mitts that feature THINDOWN® plus Sorona® insulation, with superior flexibility, warmth, and weather protection. Backcountry enthusiasts will want to check out their Frontline series gloves and mitts that feature a minimal seam design to reduce areas of wear and tear, PrimaLoft® Gold insulation, moisture-wicking linings, and Schoeller® Keprotec® on the palm and finger wraps utilizing Kevlar® fibers for ultimate durability and grip.

Known for designing sustainable outdoor clothing that offers technical performance, quality, and versatility, Stio’s new Figment jacket and bib pant are the company’s first launch into freeride apparel. Built with a roomier, more relaxed fit, these garments offer excellent freedom of movement. And because they’re constructed with Stio’s ultra-durable, 100% recycled PeakProof™ 3L face fabric combined with a highly breathable inner membrane, they ensure best-in-class, on-mountain. waterproofing and weather protection. The Figment Jacket features two-way underarm venting for custom climate control, interior zippered security and drop in stash pockets, a helmet compatible hood and peripheral hood adjustments for added weather protection, and a RFID pass pocket. The Figment Bib is comprised of the same fabric and features a higher chest rise, thigh and hand pockets, articulated knees and action gusset for full range of motion, inner thigh vents, and an abrasion-resistant kickpatch.

Looking for a low-profile, clean-styled ski helmet? Smith’s new Method helmet has it all. This lightweight, durable helmet features all the latest safety innovations for impact protection including the MIPS® Brain Protection System for reducing rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head in the event of a crash. The Method also offers SMITH’s self-adjusting, Lifestyle Fit System that flexes to match the shape of your head for a perfect fit. This helmet can be worn with or without a beanie and is offered in four sizes and nine colorways.

KUHL’s new long-sleeve Invigoratr combines superfine Merino wool that’s softer on your skin with innovative AERO™ KNIT construction that traps micro air pockets. The result is a mid-layer that keeps you warmer without adding weight; creating the ultimate in cold-weather temperature regulation. Available in a crew neck or ¼-zip styles, the articulated design was born out of KUHL’s obsession with studying movement to provide the perfect layer for all of your cold-weather activities.

There’s nothing worse than jumping on the chairlift only to find that what you thought was a leakproof thermos has leaked hot coffee all over the inside of your daypack or parka.

With HydroFlask’s wide-mouth bottle, those days are over. Designed with hot drinks in mind, this 20-oz bottle features a Flex Sip Lid™ that won’t leak and the double-wall vacuum insulation keeps hot drinks steaming for up to 12 hours—perfect for coffee, tea, cocoa, or soups. Made with 18/8 pro-grade stainless steel, these bottles will fit in your car’s cup holder and they can go right into the dishwasher for cleaning.

Those treks through sloppy snow in the parking lot at the base of the hill can be a real hassle without the right footwear. Slip on a pair of Bogs Bozeman boots and make your feet happy. Seamless construction is totally waterproof, natural rubber insulation keeps your feet warm, and EveryDry and Bogs Max-Wick lining evaporates sweat. The result? Warm, dry feet in a boot that provides a natural fit and arch support in an eco-friendly package. Want a shorter style? Check out the Sauvie Chelsea II.

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Photograph courtesy of TREW http://stepoutside.org/article/14-amazing-new-ski-products-for-2024 http://stepoutside.org/article/14-amazing-new-ski-products-for-2024 Thu, 20 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
10 Awesome Vacations Your Fishing Family Will Love Fishing with the family is always funs, but  not everybody who lives under your roof may like to fish 24/7. And if you have teens, they might not want to spend the family vacation so far back in the sticks that they don’t have a chance to try anything new and exciting. Fear not.

We’ve found a handful of places  where families can have it all – outdoor recreation, excitement, shopping and shows with a bit of Americana mixed in. It’s summer, so you’ll want to visit a place where the heat isn’t too oppressive, and other water sports offer great ways to cool off. These places check those boxes and, depending upon which destination you choose, they may also include great beaches, places to canoe or kayak or a giant water park for a splash-filled afternoon.

Here are 10 places around the country that make great family fishing vacation destinations. To make your getaway even more memorable, we’ve even suggested some local guides that will help guarantee some rod bending action for everyone. Read on and start planning your getaway today.

If the number of bass tournaments held on a lake is any indication of how good the fishing is there, then Table Rock Lake, near Branson, MO, ranks among the best. Not only is the fishing good in this Ozark gem, but it’s close enough to one of the vacation meccas of the Midwest to keep everybody in the family happy.

Largemouth and plump spotted bass are the main course on the lake, whose name is derived from the large rafts of flat rock that line its banks in places. Finesse fishing with downsized soft-plastics in deep water or skipping baits under docks is the key to success in this clear, 45,000-acre lake.

Trout fishing in area streams and on nearby Lake Taneycomo is as good as it gets. Fortunately, the trout are always looking for an easy meal and don’t mind mixing it up with fly-fishing newbies.

Bonus Attractions: In addition to all of the music halls that make Branson an entertainment crossroads, Branson is home to one of America’s most popular waterparks, so be sure to check out 13-acre Silver Dollar City White Water Park while you’re there.

  • The History of Fishing Museum houses the vast lure collection of Karl and Beverly White.

  • The original Bass Pro Shops is about 60 miles to the north in Springfield.

  • The hugely popular Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, which was chosen as the top new outdoor attraction in a national poll last fall, adjoins the store.

Key Contacts: Table Rock Chamber of CommerceEric’s Elite Guide Service (mostly bass), Anglers Advantage (trout), Wonders of Wildlife, and History of Fishing Museum

It’s hard to focus on fishing when eye-popping English Mountain and the dark peaks of the Smokies are in the southern backdrop, but this lake’s feisty bass are likely to jar an angler back to the business at hand. If none of the lake’s largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass are biting, then the abundant crappies, white bass, catfish and stripers usually figure into backup plans. Fishing and water sports on the 28,000-acre lake should keep you occupied, but Cherokee Lake to the north and Norris Lake to the northwest offer even more fishing opportunities. Trout fishing in any of several area streams is another option.

Bonus Attractions: Trail hikes, drives through the Smoky Mountains National Park (the country’s most frequently visited national park).

  • Visit nearby Dollywood (home to Splash Country Water Park) and the shops of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge. 

  • Kingsport Speedway, 75 miles away, hosts NASCAR races throughout the summer.

  • Dandridge, which is about 33 miles east of Knoxville, is a great town to use as a base camp. It’s one of the oldest towns in Tennessee and historical sites radiate out from there. 

  • Jonesborough, the state’s first European-American settlement (1779), is about an hour’s drive away.

  • Davy Crockett’s Birthplace State Park near Limestone is also an easy hour’s drive away. 

  • For those who like to golf, Morristown, 30 minutes away near Cherokee Lake, has four courses.

Key Contacts: Tennessee Tourism, Smokies Angling Adventures and Douglas Lake Marina Boat Rentals.

Big muskies, huge bass and lots of islands characterize the region where Lake Ontario funnels down into the St. Lawrence River. It’s not uncommon to catch 20-pound-plus muskies by trolling lures on one of the many charter boats available in or near the towns of Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay. A few years ago, a 60-inch musky was caught and released in the upper river. By comparison, the current International Game Fish Association world record musky weighed 67.5 pounds and was 60.25 inches long.

Clayton has been the site of numerous bass tournaments as well, beginning with the 1980 Bassmaster Classic, and a trip to sample the awesome smallmouth fishery there is not to be missed. Fishing for largemouth bass, jumbo yellow perch, northern pike and walleyes is likewise impressive.

Bonus Attractions: The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton houses all types of wooden boats from yesteryear; Boldt Castle and Heart Island are a couple of places to see at Alexandria Bay.

  • Farther down the river, the Frederick Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg is well worth the 50-mile drive.

  • The Dwight Eisenhower Visitors Center in Massena (85 miles from Clayton) tells the story behind the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which expanded shipping to and from the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River.

Key Contacts: 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, Sign Man Charters, Antique Boat Museum, and Frederic Remington Art Museum.  

Quick Tip: If staying in a roadside motel or hotel for several days on your summer fishing vacation doesn’t seem appealing, opting for a cabin or condominium might be a better choice. There are a number of websites that offer vacation rentals, including Vacation Rentals By OwnerHome To GoHomeAway and Trip Advisor. Typically, the services provide prices and details about rentals, when they’re available and how to book them.

Water, water everywhere: Summer is the best time here to fish any of the several area glacial lakes, Grand Traverse Bay and its adjacent bays, and Lake Michigan. Lake trout, king salmon, coho salmon, walleyes and brown trout are mostly targeted in the big waters, while smallmouth bass, walleyes and yellow perch are the most numerous species in the region’s inshore waters and lake system.

Small wonder Field & Stream magazine named Traverse City as the third best fishing town in the country, and Fly Rod & Reel magazine put the city on its top 12 list of fly-fishing retirement towns. Understandably, there are plenty of guide services in the area, ranging from those that head offshore for a day of trolling, to those that specialize in bass and walleyes.

Bonus Attractions: Traverse City has an extensive shopping district plus lots of downtown art shops, museums and historical sites.

  • The popular Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with its great views of Lake Michigan, isn’t far.

  • There are plenty of vineyards and wineries on the peninsula that splits Grand Traverse Bay.

  • Historic Mackinaw City Island is about three hours to the north on Highway 31, and much of the drive is along the scenic lakeshore.

Key Contacts: Pure Michigan Tourism, Traverse City Tourism, Mega-Bite Fishing Charters, 231-218-5381, Traverse City Charter Fishing, Traverse City Bass Fishing Guide Service and 45 North Vineyard & Winery .  

Some of the best trout fishing in the eastern states can be sampled in the quiet nooks and crannies of the southern Appalachians, which is why Fannin County bills itself as the “Trout Capital of Georgia.” Whether you’re a fly-fishing expert or a novice who can handle a spinning outfit, the streams in the 750,000-acre Chattahoochee National Forest offer secluded getaways for the family that likes to get away from it all.

Blue Ridge, GA, makes a good base of operations. The town shares its name with a 3,300-acre lake outside of town where it’s possible to catch bluegills as well as white and black bass, or go after the Blue Ridge Lake grand slam: walleye, smallmouth bass and rainbow trout. There are lots of trout streams in all directions, with native brookies sharing the water with rainbows and browns. You can make it as easy on yourself as fishing the well-traveled Noontootla Creek or as tough as Jacks River, which requires a 5-mile hike into the hinterlands.

Bonus Attractions: Beside various outdoor activities in the national forest, there’s a slew of attractions nearby in Blue Ridge, Dahlonega, Blairsville and Helen.

  • The Appalachian Trail cuts through here and there are scenic highways and even railways.

  • Mountain craft shops, as well as farmers’ markets and mountain music festivals galore, await here and there along the byways you’ll travel.

Key Contacts: Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia’s Blue Ridge and On the Fly Excursions.

Thanks to the foresight of a few savvy charter boat skippers decades ago, Alabama boasts one of the most extensive inshore reef systems in the country. Basically, what it means for visiting anglers is that they can spend more time fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and less time riding in a boat.

All the favorites of the northern Gulf Coast are available to anglers fishing out of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL including red snapper, grouper, king mackerel, ling (cobia), amberjacks and various other reef fish.

Inshore, Mobile Bay, Wolf Bay, Perdido Bay, Terry Cove and Big Lagoon are popular fishing holes for flounder, speckled trout (spotted seatrout), redfish and sheepshead. For landlubbers, there’s the Gulf State Park Fishing Pier, where whiting, pompano, Spanish mackerel, redfish and the occasional king mackerel are available. Surf fishing is generally good along the beach, and watercraft of various types can be rented from any of several venues.

Bonus Attractions: Alabama’s Gulf Coast boasts some of the best seafood in the country, whether you eat it in a restaurant or take it back to the condo or campsite to cook.

  • Bon Secour (“safe harbor” in French) is shrimp and oyster headquarters for carry-outs, and world-class seafood restaurants are strung out from there east to Orange Beach.

  • Mobile, settled in 1699 by French explorers, is just up the road. Tours of antebellum homes and the USS Alabama, a WWII battleship, are among the sights.

  • Fort Morgan in the southeastern corner of Mobile Bay is a popular destination for Civil War buffs.

  • Fairhope is known for its boutiques

  • Foley is a shopping outlet mecca.

Key Contacts: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach TourismAlabama TourismIsland Girl Charters and Gulf State Park

You’ll see red when you lay eyes on the Green River’s Flaming Gorge area, which owes its name to the gorgeous red sandstone cliffs that line its waters. The reservoir straddles the Utah-Wyoming state lines and is home to some of the biggest lake trout, kokanee salmon and smallmouths in the West. However, it’s the trout fishery below the dam that is the big attraction here.

The 30 miles of river support one of the best rainbow and brown trout fisheries in the country, with a few native cutthroats in the mix. It’s estimated that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 trout per river mile, with browns predominating, and the highest concentration is between the dam and Little Hole.

There are a number of fishing guide services in the area and wade fishing is permitted where practical. Some trout fishing is available downstream – most notably Jones Hole Creek – where the river returns to Utah out of Colorado and passes through the Dinosaur National Monument toward Moab.

Bonus Attractions: Historical markers detailing important waypoints of the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails can be found in all directions.

  • The Wasatch National Forest features the usual outdoor attractions common to the Northwest.

  • Dinosaur National Monument, the John M. Browning Firearms Museum in Ogden and various stops along the Interstate 15 corridor draw a lot of visitors.

Key Contacts: Utah Tourism, Travel Wyoming, Old Moe Guide Service, Red Canyon Lodge and Flaming Gorge Resort.

Chances are you won’t be crowded by other fishermen in this 304,000-acre impoundment on the Missouri River. As might be expected of the fourth largest reservoir in the country, Oahe supports several species of sportfish, but is most noted for its walleye fishery. Otherwise, there’s the usual Midwest mix: smallmouth bass, northern pike, salmon, catfish, yellow perch and white bass.

Although there are guide services and resorts up and down the lake, also consider staying in Pierre. The second smallest state capital in the nation with about 14,000 residents, Pierre nevertheless loomed large in the early days of the fur trade and opening of the West. Consequently, it’s at the hub of number of historic sites.

Bonus Attractions: South Dakota is a hidden gem for travelers interested in the Old West and American history in general.

  • For starters, there’s famous Wall Drug Store and the Badlands National Park Badlands, the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, the Corn Palace in Mitchell and Deadwood.

  • The remains of the Sioux leader, Sitting Bull, are buried near Mobridge and it’s believed that Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman who helped Lewis and Clark explore the Louisiana Purchase, is interred near there as well.

  • If you’re in the neighborhood, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place in August.

Key Contacts: South Dakota Tourism and Adams Guide Service.

Running water and scenery galore characterize central Oregon’s outdoors. The storied Deschutes River, which flows out of the Cascade Mountain Range, is one of those streams that most serious trout fishermen want to sample at least once. The salmonfly hatch and steelhead run are two good reasons to book a guide trip out of Bend.

If you have time to wander a bit, the state has approximately 12,000 waterways of various sizes and lengths – including 58 designated as Wild & Scenic Rivers – and all of them are full of fish. Among the best bass destinations is the John Day River, the longest undammed river in the state at 284 miles long. The river is especially famous for its smallmouth bass fishery.

Bonus Attractions: After you’ve done all the tourist things with the Cascade Mountains and the coastal towns, visit the Ochoco National Forest northeast of Bend for some of the best Western scenery in the land.

  • The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway through the Deschutes National Forest is another popular waypoint.

  • Bend itself has some interesting sights including Pilot Butte, a landmark near the Deschutes River; the High Desert Museum; and the Lava River Cave in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Key Contacts: Travel Oregon, Little Creek Outfitters, River Runner Outfitters, John Day River Fishing and Oregon River Experiences (rafting trips on various rivers).

In a manner of speaking, there are two Maines: the rough-and-tumble northern region that’s largely owned by timber companies with large expanses of public land, and the southern section that’s more urban in nature. North or south, the fishing is fantastic for a variety of species in the state’s major rivers.

Prime time for trout on the Penobscot is July through the end of summer, but landlocked salmon and smallmouths the size of overinflated footballs are the biggest draws. Guided trips are the best way to sample the trout and salmon fishing in the West Branch, but there also are lots of access points to fish from the bank or by wading.

The rock-bound waters in the upper stretches require some deft footwork, so be advised. The lower stretches of the river attract more smallmouth anglers who fish from the bank or canoes, typically, with the usual assortment of bass lures. Canoe and kayak rental outfitters are abundant, and some offer tents and much of the gear necessary to set up a riverside camp.

If northern Maine doesn’t seem suited for your family vacation, head south. There you’ll find more of the traditional tourist attractions, including the Maine Beaches region near Portland. Some of the best largemouth, smallmouth and striped bass fishing on the East Coast is nearby in the Androscoggin River, and adjacent waters offer a variety of angling opportunities.

Bonus Attractions: If you’re looking for boat bargains, visit the Old Town Factory Outlet Store in Old Town.

  • Bangor, home to author Stephen King and downriver from Old Town, is the third largest city in the state (population 32,000) and has the usual supply of small museums and shopping outlets.

  • It’s about 60 miles from Old Town to the popular shopping mecca of Bar Harbor where you can rent sea kayaks by the hour, and Acadia National Park isn’t far from there.

  • L.L. Bean’s flagship store is in Freeport along with great outlet store shopping.

  • Inland, the Appalachian Trail and the northernmost peaks of the Appalachians – including Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park – await hikers and sightseers.

Key Contacts: Maine Tourism, Penobscot River Cabins, Maine Bass Fishing Guide Service, Twin Maple Outdoors, Tracewski Fishing Adventures, Penobscot Guide Service, Maine Outfitter (canoe and kayak multi-day trips), New England Outdoor Center (rafting trips) and Penobscot Adventures Whitewater Rafting.

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Photograph Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources  http://stepoutside.org/article/10-awesome-vacations-your-fishing-family-will-love http://stepoutside.org/article/10-awesome-vacations-your-fishing-family-will-love Wed, 19 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
10 Tips for Safely Riding ATVs ATVs—shorthand for “all terrain vehicles”—are one way to explore areas of land that you might not otherwise be able to access. And you can have a ton of fun while you do it. Plus, it’s a great sport for almost every member of the family.

But here’s the deal: ATVs are motorized, and with that comes important safety rules you need to follow.  

According to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, in 2015, there were 97,200 injuries related to riding ATVs—28 percent involved kids under 16 years-old. Here are some smart tips from seasoned riders, to ensure that you and your family members have the best ATV experience possible.

For one thing, kids should not be placed upon some big honking device—there are ATVs specifically sized for younger riders, so look into them. Engine CCs of up to 70 are good for kids aged 11 and under. 250 CCs and up work for intermediate/advanced riders. Rule of thumb: When it comes to engine size, it’s better to go too small versus too big (and always keep an eye on kids under 16 years of age).

Sure, ATVs look easy to drive, but because they’re motorized vehicles, any and everyone who plans to board one should take a basic course in how to drive them. It’s just good sense, so do not skip this important step! 

Whether you rent or buy your ATV, review the owner’s manual to get the skinny on how it works.

Meaning, check fluid levels (gas, oil, coolant), chains, air filter, and tire pressure before you get started. There are many riders who just want to hop on and take off—only to be stranded later by something as simple as an empty gas tank.  

Whether you’re renting or have just bought a new ATV, the default position will be different from yours. Take a moment to adjust handlebars, clutch, and any levers to make them “yours.”

Even in warmer months, there are some non-negotiables when it comes to ATV gear. Most importantly, a helmet. ATVs are meant to go over some dodgy terrain, and the possibility of being knocked off—and out—is a real thing. For that reason alone, a helmet is essential.  Other important pieces of gear include gloves, boots that go over your ankle, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, a chest protector, and goggles. Face it, the trail kicks up lots of unexpected “surprises,” like a pothole or big branch, so take no chances. It’s not worth it.

Sure, the ATV goes “vroom vroom”—and it may be tempting to race the motor, and pop a wheelie. But that’s a fast way to hurting yourself. It’s a fact that more folks are injured riding ATVs than in any other outdoor sport, so be responsible.

Remember those potholes and errant branches? Even wearing safety gear, you could still wind up in serious trouble. Always take someone with you when riding. But never put someone on the back of a single-rider ATV.

Probably my favorite weekend of the year with these guys!

A post shared by Nick Moses (@nmoses166) on

Seriously. Just don’t! 

There’s a reason “terrain” is part of the name: off-road is where they’re meant to be used. On that same note, don’t cross over onto private property, and be respectful of environmentally-sensitive areas like dunes.

*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-tips-for-safely-riding-atvs http://stepoutside.org/article/10-tips-for-safely-riding-atvs Wed, 19 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
Deer Rifles—How to Choose The Perfect Gun It is fall, which means that the leaves are changing and gun writers are doing articles on the “Great American Deer Rifle.” Picking out a new deer rifle? You can do it the easy way or you can do it the hard way.

The easy way? Buy a bolt-action rifle in .30-06, put a good 3-9X scope on it and call it done. You might also call this process boring. This gun can do the job any place deer are hunted. Is it perfect for all deer hunting? Of course not. Now we are getting to the hard stuff. But, it’s also the fun stuff. Most hard core hunters will want to refine their rifle choice to match their hunting style, region they’re hunting in and personal preferences. Here’s how to find a great deer rifle just for you.

Bolt actions dominate the deer woods today, but there are still places where a lever action, pump or even a semi-auto shines bright. It all depends on where you hunt, how you hunt and your preferences in rifles.

In the Northeast, tracking is a very popular way to hunt deer. It is without a doubt the best option for hunting big bucks in the North Country. I know this because I have written two books on the topic.

Those who track deer and those who love to still hunt in other parts of the country have similar needs in a deer rifle.

The most popular rifle for tracking is the Remington Model 7600 pump action. It fits the hand well and is not too heavy to carry all day long. It points like a shotgun for those fast snap shots and is extremely quick for follow-up shots. The most popular cartridges are the .30-06 Springfield and .270 Winchester. I use a .35 Whelen, but Remington stopped chambering the M7600 for the .35 Whelen cartridge so if you want one, it will have to come off the used gun rack.

Southern hunters are often in a box blind watching a greenfield. They have some of the same requirements that hunters anywhere in the country who watch clear cuts, powerlines or large agricultural fields have. They need a rifle that is light enough to carry to and from the stand easily and accurate enough for a longer shot. Lucky for them, this is exactly where a lot of the new rifle introductions have been focused. 

The precision rifle is very popular today and are very affordable. Ruger started the affordability trend with the RPR, now Remington, Savage and perhaps others have jumped into the market. The precision rifle is usually built on a chassis rather than a stock. The chassis can be adjusted to fit the individual shooter, so the guns can be tuned to the hunter. They are designed for long-range target shooting, but in an appropriate cartridge, they are a great choice for the hunter who may encounter a long shot. The downside of these rifles is that they tend to be a bit heavy, but that’s not a big problem if you are sitting on a stand.

The new generation of hybrid rifles are combining the best features of a precision long-range target rifle and a hunting rifle. The results are very accurate hunting rifles that can manage long-range assignments just fine. Examples include the Browning Hell’s Canyon Speed Ruger’s Hawkeye FTW Hunter or the Remington Model 700 Long Range. They are very accurate and light enough to carry. One big advantage is that they are chambered for some very powerful cartridges.

Precision rifles are usually short-action designs chambered for cartridges like the 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Winchester. These cartridges are all very capable for deer hunting, but a hybrid rifle in .300 Winchester or any of several other long-action cartridges provides a lot more wallop at the target.

If you are in the market for your first rifle, budget might be a big factor. Consider the new generation of budget-priced, bolt-action rifles. I just came in from the range where I shot a Mossberg Patriot in 6.5 Creedmoor that I am going to hunt blacktail deer in California with. I was using Barnes Vortex LR ammo with 127-grain LRX bullets. My last 100-yard group measured just under half an inch. That’s good accuracy from a precision rifle and outstanding from a budget-priced hunting rifle. I have also seen excellent accuracy from the Ruger American rifle, Remington 783 and the Savage Apex. Budget price does not mean budget performance anymore.

Remington dropped their Model 750 semi-auto rifle a few years ago, ending more than a century of providing hunters with a self-shucking hunting rifle. I think that Browning may be the last of the breed with their BLR rifles. My BLR is in .30-06 and is accurate enough that I once shot the head off a rabbit at 300 yards with the rifle. (I won a bet and filled our bellies at the same time.)

New Ammo for Deer 

The ammo trend in deer hunting this year is for long-range hunting. Hornady has their new ELD-X long-range hunting bullet in most of the popular long-range cartridges now. That includes one of my all-time favorite deer cartridges, the .280 Ackley Improved. Look for more guns and ammo in this cartridge in the coming year.

Photograph Courtesy of Hornady Manufacturing Company
Almost every major manufacturer is now offering rifle ammo that is tailor made for long-range deer hunting.

Barnes has a new line of Vortex Long Range ammo with a wide selection of cartridges. I have long been a fan of Barnes bullets for their performance on big game and this new line has really impressed me with its accuracy. It meets the lead free requirements for places like where we will be hunting soon in California.

Remington’s Hypersonic ammo provides up to 200 fps. more velocity to help flatten the trajectory and to carry more energy to the animal.

Federal’s new long-range load, the EDGE TLR, features a Trophy Bonded bullet and is some of the most accurate hunting ammo I have tested.

Black Hills Gold Ammo has always been loaded with some of the best hunting bullets like the Barnes TSX. New this year they have added Hornady ELD-X bullets to several cartridges.

 

One of the biggest changes with this current generation of deer hunters is the acceptance of AR-style rifles for hunting. In the smaller AR-15 platform I am not a fan of the .223 Remington for deer, particularly from the shorter barrels common on these rifles. However, the .450 Bushmaster, .458 Socom and the .50 Beowulf are all hard-hitting cartridges that turn off the switches. The vast majority of deer, particularly in the East, are shot at distances of less than 200 yards and these cartridges can handle that if the shooter can.

The larger AR-10 or ARL rifles are designed for the .308 Winchester. That entire family includes some outstanding deer cartridges. The .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 7mm-08 Remington and .308 Winchester are all offered in these rifles. My personal favorite is the .338 Federal, which is a hard-hitting cartridge. I have recently been shooting a Wilson Combat AR style rifle in .358 Winchester, one of my all-time favorite deer cartridges.

The ARL rifles are rugged, dependable in any weather and are exceedingly accurate. This style rifle is very capable of long range hunting. As semi-autos they are very fast for follow up shots. The design ergonomics make these guns easy to hold comfortably in position while waiting. The pistol grip of the ARL rifle keeps the hand in a more natural position while you wait for the deer.

The Browning BLR lever action is chambered for several modern cartridges and has a following with deer hunters. The traditional lever actions once dominated the deer woods but have fallen out of favor in recent years. Still a great choice, they just are not all that popular with today’s new deer hunters. Some straight-wall cartridges, however, are enjoying a comeback of sorts.

Many states that had shotgun-only restrictions are now allowing straight-walled rifle cartridges to be used. The most popular are the .450 Bushmaster, .444 Marlin and the .45-70. Lever-action rifles, like the Marlin 1895 or Henry Lever Action rifle in .45-70, are an obvious choice. Where legal they are fast for follow-up shots. They are also accurate and easy to carry.

I’ll be hunting for giant Midwest whitetails this year with a Marlin 1895 in .45-70. I’ll have it loaded with Barnes Vortex 300 grain ammo and be ready for any shot out to 250 or maybe even 300 yards.

If you are like me, you look at all these choices and think, “I would really like one of each.” Economic reality forbids that of course, but you have to agree it sure is nice to have options.

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Photograph Courtesy of Howard Communications, Inc. http://stepoutside.org/article/deer-rifles-how-to-choose-the-perfect-gun http://stepoutside.org/article/deer-rifles-how-to-choose-the-perfect-gun Tue, 18 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
How to Catch Really Big Fish With Kids When it comes to fishing with kids, conventional wisdom says to find a place where they can catch any fish with a high level of frequency and you’ll make a fisherman for life. That’s true. Fast-action is always a positive, but if that action means catching small panfish over and over with no variety, kids can lose interest.

However, if that action includes taking a variety of fish with the possibility of maybe catching a whopper, then they will enjoy fishing all the more. Getting kids into bigger fish takes a little effort, however, as a recent outing with my girls taught me.

Our choice was either to fish off of the dock or take my twin three-year olds into the boat with my wife and try to find a more interesting spot to fish. It would have been easier to stay on the dock, but I had a hunch we could find a place that would provide better action than the small panfish that congregate near shore. 

Photograph by Tony J. Peterson
Kids thrive when the fishing action is hot, especially if there is the chance to catch multiple species—and possibly—a big fish, like this northern pike.

With the whole crew in the boat, we idled to a point of pencil reeds that mark the inside of an old river channel. A slight current moved through the reeds, and a nearby drop-off provided some depth. In addition to finding sunfish, I thought we might catch a few other species. We did.

Not only did we find bluegills tucked into the pockets between the reeds, but we managed to catch perch, rock bass, crappies, small northern pike, and a bonus 21-inch walleye. Since that experience, I’ve looked at fishing with kids in a whole new way.

The scenario above sounds simple enough, but it took some careful consideration. Here are three key factors to consider that will put your kids onto fish and maybe, onto a monster to boot.

Simple is good when you’re fishing with kids, which is why I like to start kids out on bobbers and bait. (Kids love watching those bobbers twitch when fish come calling.)  Most often, parents will pick up a dozen nightcrawlers and call that good enough. The thing about that is, nightcrawlers are deadly on panfish and perch, but they’re not the best choice for other species. It’s a much better idea to pick up a variety of baits, so pick up some leeches or minnows as well. 

Quick Tip: Keep a needle-nose pliers and a line-cutter handy at all times when fishing with kids, because you’ll eventually need them.

 

Personally, I’ll take a scoop of fathead minnows over anything else. These minnows are large enough to take some abuse, but not so big that nearly any fish out there can eat them. And fish ranging from crappies to bass to walleyes and northern pike love minnows.

With one setup using a nightcrawler and the other using a minnow, you’re now greatly increasing your chances of catching different kinds of fish. Leeches, which always fascinate kids, are another choice that will increase the odds of diversity.

Change the depths at which you set the bait below the bobbers to find the sweet spot. Oftentimes with worms, the closer to the bottom you can get, the better. With minnows, having them suspended a foot or two off of the bottom might be a better bet.

Naturally, it doesn’t matter how deep your bait is set if you’re not in a good spot, so you’ll have to figure out where to fish that might offer multi-species action. 

To find a great fishing spot for kids, try locating waters that may not get as much attention as super popular lakes near you. Then look for areas on those lakes that offer as many options as possible. For example, picture a rocky shoreline that is dotted with a few lily pads. That might look good enough, but was does it offer the fish? Probably not much.

Now, follow that shoreline for a while until you get to a point that juts out into the lake. There, you’ll see the same rocks and lily pads, but also a potential current break (if there is any current). The point also probably extends into deeper water, which is always good. This spot, while it might not look much different than the rest of the shoreline, is most likely, better.

Perhaps you want to fish a shallow bay that is full of pencil reeds and lily pads. One section will undoubtedly look as good as the next, so where do you start? In such situations I like to see if there is a beaver dam or some other kind of wood structure in the water. That added bit of habitat can change a sunfish morning, into something that includes largemouth bass or maybe crappies just by fishing closer to one extra type of cover. 

Quick Tip: Whether you’re fishing on shore or from a boat, have a landing net ready. Kids love netting fish, and it makes the process much easier.

 

The added bonus to this type of fishing with kids is that it puts you in the spot to maybe catch something bigger, and believe me when I write this, kids want to catch something big. It doesn’t matter if it’s a smallmouth, a dogfish, a carp or whatever, the bigger the better.

Getting familiar with a map of the area you’re going to fish before you head out can save you a lot of time. Mark a few places that offer any of the suggestions above and head there first.

The right bait and a great spot will go a long way toward a memorable fishing trip, but you can hedge your bets even further by knowing in advance what times are best for fishing. I like to fish at sunrise and sunset, and while my little girls don’t like getting up at 5 AM to fish, when they do, they love it because they usually do pretty well. Get them out there in the morning or the evening when the temperatures are tolerable, and the fish will be biting. 

If you’re fishing plenty of weeds and wood cover, plan a trip when it will be sunny to take advantage of the fish tucking themselves into the shade. If you’re fishing a rocky point or island, wait for an overcast day if you can. 

Fishing with kids can, and should be, as simple as you can make it. But that doesn’t mean you should not plan to catch fish, especially multiple species of fish. It takes a little planning to do it right, but one good experience where fish of all varieties pull their bobbers below the surface will do wonders for keeping your kids’ attention and excitement levels up. And if they catch a big one, well, you can consider it a job-well-done. 

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Photograph by Tony J. Peterson http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-catch-really-big-fish-with-kids http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-catch-really-big-fish-with-kids Sun, 16 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
How to Catch Bass on Summer’s Hottest Days It’s hot, it’s humid and the dog days of summer are living up to their billing. But bass don’t stop biting just because the heat wave is on. The warmer the water, the hungrier bass get, and they can be caught by savvy anglers who know where to look and what bait to use.

By August, the post-spawn feeding frenzy is over and bass that have been constantly bombarded with lures are warier. Fish that were out in the open last spring and easy to catch are gone, and most of the rest have gotten smarter and less susceptible to any old bait that comes along. In lakes with open-water forage, such as shad and blueback herring, fishing offshore humps and ledges is a summer staple. On the flip side, however, fishing docks and weed beds can be just as productive. Read on to learn how.

Shady docks provide excellent cover for bass and their prey. By late summer, pressured bass have moved into the most remote reaches underneath docks and overhanging trees along the bank, and traditional overhand or sidearm casting won’t reach them.

Skipping a soft-plastic bait or jig under a dock or nearby shoreline cover as one would skip a flat rock across a lake’s surface is a proven presentation. Typically, a rod of about 7 feet long with a light tip is employed. The trick is to keep the rod tip parallel to the surface. Otherwise, the bait will sail up and lose momentum, or splash down short of the mark.

Baitcasting or spinning tackle can be used, with the latter being the best choice for beginners. Lures might include light jigs or lightly weighted plastic worms and swimbaits, tubes or wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senkos.

If skipping lures isn’t among your fishing skill sets, try pitching baits underhand with spinning tackle into the tightest nooks and crannies that others might not have been able to reach. Be patient and quiet, without banging a bait against pontoon floats or the dock itself. Let the bait fall slowly, twitch it or hop it a time or two, reel it in quickly and present it to the next target. 

All docks aren’t equal in their appeal to bass; some hold fish, while others are barren. Here are a few factors that might help you narrow down the possibilities:

  • Water Depth: Some docks could be standing in water that’s too deep, or not deep enough. Floating docks might have 6 feet of water under them, or 60 feet. The most productive docks usually are those that are built on pilings in relatively shallow water over a sloping bottom, rather than floating docks over deep water. Look at the shoreline. Is it relatively steep or flat? That topography is probably repeated under the dock.
  • Dock Location: Is the dock on a point or tucked away in the backend of a feeder creek? Is it standing in water that’s swept by current or wind? Moving water often pushes roving schools of baitfish, such as shad and blueback herring – assuming they’re present in a lake – and creates another feeding opportunity for bass. The dock itself makes an ideal ambush spot. On the flip side, a dock standing in the back of a quiet cove might also harbor bass, especially if there are crawfish and juvenile bream in the neighborhood.
  • Less Is Better: As is the case with wood cover, single docks or a few docks scattered along a fairly lengthy stretch of shoreline are more likely to be productive than several clustered together in one cove. That’s not necessarily because there are more or less fish on solitary docks, but rather because an angler can cover a single dock quicker and more thoroughly.
  • Other Factors: If night lights, chairs and clamp-on rod holders are present on a dock, it’s likely the owner fishes from it and perhaps has added brush piles or similar fish-attracting cover to the bottom in front of, and under, the dock. This is especially true in lakes where crappies are among the main attractions. Also, avoid busy docks. If jet skis and boats are almost constantly coming and going, chances are bass aren’t going to set up there.

Try Something They Haven't Seen Before

Photograph By Colin Moore

Gene Larew Bait Company (genelarew.com) recently introduced an innovative soft-plastic swim bait for fishing under docks and other cover. It’s called the Bass Shooter, and it’s designed to skip or “shoot” beneath a dock (or beneath overhanging shoreline cover) with an underhanded bow-and-arrow cast. Spinning tackle is the best way to bomb a dock with the Bass Shooter.

Available in tackle stores and online merchants, the Bass Shooter is 3 ¼ inches long and shaped like a flattened shad or sunfish. It has an enticing darting action when paired with an unweighted or belly-weighted wide-gap hook. A package of eight costs about $5.

 

Docks are great hot-weather targets for bass anglers, but so are weed mats. By late summer, aquatic vegetation has reached its peak growth and thick mats of emergent weeds become darkened cafeterias for fish of all kinds.

Bluegills forage for insects, small crustaceans and minnows. Young-of-the-year shad and other minnows feed in the nutrient- and oxygen-rich water generated by hydrilla, watermilfoil, elodea, water lilies and the like. Closer to the bank, emergent vegetation such as water willow, alligator weed, and water primrose provide temporary havens for the smaller fish being hunted by bass. Frog-fishing season might extend into late fall in Southern lakes. When the weed cover begins to die off due to cooler weather, the decaying process robs the water of dissolved oxygen, and fish will slowly leave.

Depending on the level of growth, there are three ways to fish aquatic vegetation:

  1. If weeds haven’t reached the surface yet, topwater lures, buzzbaits, swimjigs, weightless worms and lizards are good options to try. ChatterBaits , spoons, such as the Johnson Minnow or Dardevle Rex Spoon, and various lightly weighted swimbaits can be used successfully.
  2. For vegetation, such as hydrilla, that has topped out and is laying over on the surface with scattered openings, frogs and “toads” are top choices. Frogs are hollow renditions of their natural namesakes and usually have legs made of skirt material on either side of their rear ends that emulate legs, as well as a pair of hooks that cradle the body. 
Photograph Courtesy of FLW/Photo by Andy Hagedon
Most frogs have legs made of skirt material, but some have hard-plastic tails that revolve and splash water as they’re retrieved. Either type is effective when bass are feeding in weeds. Fish them with braided line.

Toads are solid-body renditions of frogs that are Texas-rigged by the angler. Most manufacturers of soft-plastics offer them, and they’re equipped with paddle-like legs that kick up a fuss when they’re retrieved.

Numerous colors are available, but plain white might be the most popular because it is easier to track. The LiveTarget Frog, Lunkerhunt, SPRO Bronzeye, Strike King KVD Sexy Frog, Booyah Toad Runner, Jackall Gavacho and Kaera, and River2Sea Spittin’ Wa are top sellers.

To fish a frog, simply cast it out and hop it back with short twitches of the rod tip. When it reaches an opening in the pads, weed mat or shoreline moss, pause it a moment or slow the retrieve to give a bass the chance to home it on it. If a bass grabs it, wait a second to make sure the frog is down in the fish’s mouth, then set the hook with a sweep set.

Given that the angler might be several yards away from the fish, with all that vegetation in between, stout braided line of 50-pound test and a stiff 7-foot rod is recommended. The trick is to hold the bass’ head up as much as possible, and keep it moving toward the angler.

3. In the thickest slop, the best way to reach bass in the hollow chambers below the top is to fish with a heavily weighted and Texas-rigged soft plastic.  A “punching” rig is a variation, and basically consists of a Texas-rigged soft-plastic, a bullet weight of between ½- and 1 ounce, a skirt and heavy-wire hook tied to the line with a Snell knot. 

Photograph by Colin Moore
Jig and Trailer Punch rigs used to fish heavy vegetation typically consist of a trailer of some sort, a skirt and hook attached to a heavy weight. Note the bobber stopper at the head that keeps the sinker wedged against the skirt and trailer.

A number of companies offer punching rig kits or components, including V&M and Siebert Outdoors. The idea is to give a bass with limited visibility an eyeful and, hopefully, compel it to strike. Whether it’s a crawfish imitator or some sort of swimbait, the soft-plastic and its hook are pegged to the heavy weight by a toothpick or sinker stopper. That keeps the bait and the sinker together; otherwise, the weight might sink while the bait hangs up near the surface.

Where do you fish in a lake seemingly covered with miles of matted weeds? To narrow the search, look for bass-attracting bottom configurations and start there.

Patches of scattered offshore vegetation suggests the presence of humps and bars near deep water. Curving grass edges might indicate a creek channel ledge. Trees and laydowns in the mats, or mixed vegetation such as lily pads and peppergrass, are bass magnets. In other words, look for the differences, and fish them.

 

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Photograph Courtesy of Bass Pro Shops A Senko is a good choice for fishing in mixed cover of wood and weeds, or under and around docks. It can be rigged wacky style with the hook in the middle, or Texas-rigged with a wide-gap hook buried in the head. http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-catch-bass-on-summers-hottest-days http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-catch-bass-on-summers-hottest-days Sat, 15 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
How to Charge Your Gadgets While Camping and Hiking There once was a time when carrying electronic devices with us into the great outdoors was pretty much unthinkable. Fragile and expensive, such devices offered few benefits to campers and backpackers, especially those interested in going ultralight. But times have changed and now it is not uncommon to take a host of gadgets with us when hitting the trail or simply car camping for the weekend with the family. Everything from smartphones and tablets, to headlamps and GPS trackers are powered by rechargeable batteries these days and keeping them functioning can be a real challenge.

Fortunately, there are now a number of great solutions available for charging our electronic equipment while on the go. So, whether you’re heading out for just the day or for weeks at a time, these are the best ways to prevent your devices from running out of juice and becoming nothing more than dead weight in your pack.

Even if you’re just going out for day hike, it is always a good idea to take a portable battery pack with you just in case. Sometimes you find yourself hiking for far longer than you expected and the last thing you want is for your smartphone or rechargeable headlamp to die on you just when you need it most.

There are literally dozens of compact battery packs to choose from, but if you’re going to be spending a considerable amount of time in the outdoors, you’ll want one that is rugged and built to withstand the elements. 

Lifeproof’s LifeActive Power Pack ($79.99) fits that description nicely, offering enough power to recharge an iPhone more than three times and featuring a durable case that is both water and drop-proof. The LifeActive includes a quick-charging USB port for rapid refills and bright LED lights that allow it to be used as a flashlight or emergency flasher, too. 

Quick Tip: Cold conditions can kill rechargeable batteries very quickly. To help prevent this from happening, keep your smartphone and other devices in an inner pocket inside your jacket during the day or in the foot of your sleeping bag at night when temperatures take a plunge.

 

If you are camping or traveling for a few days at a time, a higher capacity battery pack is likely in order. On longer getaways you’re more likely to be carrying extra electronic gear with you, such as a camera, GPS device, or Bluetooth speaker. You’ll also need to keep your smartphone running for extended periods of time too, which can be a challenge in and of itself. 

The RAVPower Exclusives Solar Power Bank ($52.99) stores enough energy to recharge a smartphone as many as ten times and it comes with a built-in flashlight too. It is also dust, drop, and waterproof, has multiple USB in and out ports for rapid recharging, and is equipped with its own solar panel to help keep its internal battery topped off as well.

An extended camping trip lasting a week or longer could involve a considerable amount of electronic gear. Not only will smartphones, cameras, and GPS devices be a part of the mix, but tablets, laptops, and even drones may come along for the journey too.

In those circumstances, you’ll need a much larger power source, typically moving away from compact battery packs in favor of portable power stations instead. What these devices lack in portability they make up for with batteries that are much higher in capacity. They’ll also offer more options when it comes to charging ports too.

The Jackery Explorer 240 ($230) is a great choice when choosing this type of portable power station, bringing a nice mix of size, capacity, and charging options. With 240 watt-hour of battery life it can recharge an iPhone more than 15 times, or a laptop as many as 2-4 times.

And since it features an AC wall outlet built right in, it can be used to power just about anything, from LCD televisions to small appliances. It also includes two quick-charging USB ports and a 12-volt DC port too. On top; of that, it can even be recharged in the field using Jackery’s 50-watt solar panel

Quick Tip: To get maximum efficiency from a solar panel, lay the device flat and in direct sunlight. You may have to adjust its position throughout the day to collect as much light as possible.

 

For those who spend extended periods of time in the backcountry and need power in a base camp setting, a larger power station is likely in order. Not only will you need more capacity, you’ll definitely want more charging ports and outlets too.

Compatibility with a solar panel is a must too since you’ll need a way to recharge the power station over an extended period of time. With the right set-up, you could theoretically stay off the grid indefinitely and keep your electronic gear charged the entire time. 

For these long-term needs, Goal Zero’s Yeti 1000 Lithium is the perfect choice. Not only does it offer more than 1000-watt hours of power, but it includes two AC wall outlets, a 12-volt DC port, and four USB ports, all in a package that weighs just 40 pounds. It is also compatible with the company’s Boulder 100-watt portable solar panel for convenient charging anywhere. 

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Photograph by Kraig Becker Keeping your electronic devices charged in the backcountry is easier than ever thanks to portable power banks like these. http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-charge-your-gadgets-while-camping-and-hiking http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-charge-your-gadgets-while-camping-and-hiking Fri, 14 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
The Essential Gear You Need When Riding ATVs ATVs are off-road vehicles, designed to allow access to trails and other hard-to-reach areas. The earliest designs from the 1970s were three-wheeled. Today, four-wheeled models (called “quads”) are most popular.

Because these vehicles are meant to be used on unpaved areas, there are risks involved, thus certain pieces of gear are required if you want to ride safely. Depending on where you plan to go, you may be able to rent a lot of items from local outfitters—especially in tourist areas. Considering that a brand new ATV can run anywhere from $3,000 to over $12,000, giving the sport a “test drive” by renting is just smart.

Here’s the essential gear needed for riding ATVs:

 Head and neck injuries account for 29 percent of ATV-related injuries. Don’t be a hot shot—always, always wear a helmet.

Not only will they make it easier to see where you’re going, they’ll save your eyeballs from unexpected encounters with rocks, dust, and branches.

This means long pants and shirtsleeves, boots that go over the ankle, gloves, and a chest protector. Remember that you’re riding in areas where anything and everything can be kicked up by your vehicle, so don’t take any chances of being the target of some random projectile. Also, you can get seriously nasty burns if you fall off. The right clothing can minimize any injuries. 

A fully-charged cell phone in case you get lost or someone gets seriously hurt.

Pack a few basic items like a Swiss Army knife, duct tape, and a vise grip. Experienced riders also swear by those plastic zip ties—you’d be surprised at how many uses they have.

A flat tire or slow leak can ruin your ride.

When your riding partner has gotten their vehicle stuck in a crazy place, this could make the difference in getting it back on the trail—or not.

You never know when you and your riding partner may need to patch up a few cuts and scrapes. And while most cell phones have a GPS feature, batteries don’t last forever. Take a map of the area (if available) and compass with you in case you have to navigate the old-fashioned way.  

It’s easy to lose track of your fuel when you’re having fun. Pack extra.

You’d be surprised at how fast you can get dehydrated when riding, especially in the warm summer months. Dehydration can make you feel faint, so drinking enough water won’t just make your ride more comfortable, it’s a good safety tip.

So before climbing aboard, take the time to outfit all members of your “ATV team” with the right gear. It will make your ride much more fun—not to mention, safe.

*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/the-essential-gear-you-need-when-riding-atvs http://stepoutside.org/article/the-essential-gear-you-need-when-riding-atvs Thu, 13 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
How To Tap Local Fishing Communities For The Best Angling There are a lot of fishing opportunities out there that may seem exotic or hard to come by at first. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that they’re available to everyone, provided you’re willing to do some pre-trip research and you’re willing to source some local knowledge. 

There is no one more qualified to advise a newcomer on the best locations, presentations and tackle choices than a knowledgeable resident. With their help, you should be able to find amazing fishing opportunities wherever you go, which is just what happened to me earlier this year when I traveled to Florida’s Space Coast with my family for vacation.

Here's how I was able to tap into local residents and resources to turn what might have been a busted fishing day into an angling adventure my twin girls will remember forever.

I’d packed one travel rod, a spinning reel, and a small assortment of lures for our trip. The day before I wanted to take my girls to a local beach to fish I’d even stopped in at a local tackle shop to get some much-needed advice. The shop owner was helpful and I left with some 3-ounce sinkers, pompano rigs, and a package of frozen shrimp.

Quick tip: Quick Tip: Pay attention to how the locals fish, so that you can not only pick up tips, but also avoid breaking any unspoken rules of your potential new fishing community.

 

These worked great and I caught a few fish right away, but my enthusiasm drained away the first evening as I watched the waves grow from manageable two-footers to well over my head in a matter of a few hours. I knew the fish I’d found staging on a sandy shelf were going to be within reach, but impossible to work with my setup, which wouldn’t hold in the waves, or allow me to cast far enough into the surf to reach any of the productive water. My twin seven-year-old daughters were ready to catch their first saltwater fish, so I needed a new strategy. 

The young man working in the tackle shop closest to our Cocoa Beach hotel told me about several spots that might be just out of the wind enough to fish with my setup. He then showed me the smallest jigheads, hooks and sinkers they sold. I left with the ocean equivalent of panfish tackle and drove north until I found a private beach with paid access. Using my phone to check some aerial photography, I could see a pier and a jetty, and it looked like the best fishing might be shielded from the big waves. 

My first spot was a bust, but farther out on the pier I started to get bites. Pinfish were the first takers, but then I caught a blowfish that the girls would have found fascinating. A few small hairy blennies bit as well, so I drove back to the hotel to get the girls and their Uncle Dave, who didn’t want to miss a chance to see what the fishing was like. 

We’d just started to pluck a few hairy blennies from the rocks when a bikini-clad local with a cast-net and a fishing rod walked up. She surveyed our setup and said, “Honey, you’re all wrong. Everything you have is wrong.” She didn’t even let me respond before she walked off. 

A few minutes later we walked up the pier to see if we could find an open spot when another fishermen approached us and said, “Come on down. They’re biting at the end of the pier. All you need is a crappie jig.” 

When I told him my crappie jigs were 1000 miles away, he opened his tackle box and pulled a white marabou jig out and then unspooled three feet of 40-pound fluorocarbon for a leader. I watched as he set us up and when he finished he said, “Tip the jig with a piece of shrimp, cast it straight out and let it hit the bottom. Then, pop it back in.”

Quick tip: Keep your fishing simple when you’re traveling with kids. The best spots are often those easy-to-access areas from shore that will provide enough action to keep you and the kids happy.

 

On the first cast I did just that and within a few cranks of the reel a whiting bit. I handed the rod to Lila, who landed it while fisherman down the entire length of the pier cheered. The next cast produced the exact same results for her twin sister and it was smiles all around. We fished under a double rainbow while birds of all varieties tried to snatch our bait. The local who had set us up told us stories about fishing and offered up tips. 

It was one of those evenings when you pray to whoever might be listening to delay the sunset for a few more minutes just to wring the most out of the experience, but eventually we packed it in and thanked our new friend. 

As we walked off the pier, the bikini-clad rod critic who’d stopped us earlier was leaning hard against a fish that had some weight to it. Her fishing partner clambered down on the rocks with a net and when he popped up, a three-foot shark bowed the bottom of the net. 

The woman let fly with the mother of all swear words, which sent my daughters into a giggling fit. But that ended when she told the girls to walk on up and touch the fish. They were wide-eyed and surprised at the shark’s rough skin. It was a perfect ending to the most fun we had during eight days of theme-parks and beach fun in Florida. 

The shore fishing opportunities we found on our latest trip were no accident, even though we leaned heavily on local help. Here are some of the ways we made the trip a success.

Carry A Pack Rod: I always travel with a collapsible rod and just enough tackle to hit the water wherever we end up. The rod is a $20, whippy six-footer that is better than nothing and has been good enough for a wide variety of saltwater fish over the years.

It’s too small for a lot of fish, but good enough for a seven-year old or an adult man with the fishing enthusiasm of a seven-year old. The idea is to be able to fish any time an opportunity comes up, and if you’re looking, it usually does.

Buy A Time-Specific License: Pretty much everywhere you go you’ll probably need a fishing license, but most states will sell you a time-specific license that is usually good for a few days and is often cheaper than the fee to check one bag at the airport.

Tap The Local Tackle Shop: Aside from that, you’ll probably need a little help. I always do some internet research on the fish that might be available and the public spots I can visit, but there’s nothing that replaces local knowledge. I can remember strolling into a tackle shop in Key West one time and asking the fellow behind the counter what to use and he simply asked me where I was staying. After telling him, he grabbed a few jigheads, some shrimp and said, “Throw it out and then let it sit on the bottom."

Photograph By Tony J. Peterson
While traveling, you can often find easy-to-access fishing opportunities. In them, you might find yourself an entire fishing community that will take you in and offer a hand.

Mangrove snapper and grunts bit nonstop along with a few bonus barracuda and before long, my wife and I had an entire group of people fishing with us. Several had young kids and while they hailed from all over the country, we all shared a similar love for fishing. It was an incredible vacation and the trip that solidified my resolve for always traveling with enough tackle to take advantage of new adventure.

Nowadays, that new adventure involves a pair of little girls who want to catch fish and see string rays and experience what the world of water has to offer. It’s a gift that so many destinations offer. If that sounds appealing, consider picking up an inexpensive travel rod and doing a little research before your next family outing. You just might find a local fishing community that will take you in as one of their own, which is what fishing is all about.

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Photograph By Tony J. Peterson An inexpensive travel rod and a time-specific fishing license might be all you really need to find fishing adventures in far-flung locations. http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-tap-local-fishing-communities-for-the-best-angling http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-tap-local-fishing-communities-for-the-best-angling Tue, 11 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
10 Tips For Going Ultralight on the Trail One of the hottest trends in hiking and backpacking over the past few years has been the shift toward going ultralight on the trail. Typically, this involves hikers cutting as much weight from their packs as possible in an effort to travel faster and more comfortably in the backcountry.

This means getting your base pack weight down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 20 pounds, while packing smart to bring the items to keep you safe and comfortable at the same time.

But getting started with ultralight hiking can be a bit daunting, making it difficult to know what you should and shouldn’t bring with you on a backpacking excursion. If you’ve been looking for ways to dip your toe in the ultralight pond, we have 10 tips that can help you get started. 

One of the first things you should do when looking to cut excess weight from your pack is to evaluate everything that you’re bringing with you. Chances are there are some items that you don’t actually need that are just taking up space and adding ounces.

For instance, one set of clothes that function as a good layering system is all that you really need to stay comfortable on the trail. It may be nice to have something clean to put on every day, but if you want to travel faster and lighter, that is a luxury you’ll have to learn to do without. 

When selecting the gear that you want to take with you, break out the scale and check to see just how much everything weighs. You may discover that items you thought were lightweight are actually heavier than you imagined. You’ll also gain a better sense of what is contributing to your overall pack weight, too.

A good backpack is essential to any hiking excursion, but if your pack is more than a couple of years old, or hasn’t been specifically designed to go ultralight, it probably weighs more than it should.

These days, a lightweight pack often tips the scales at less than two pounds, which is substantially lighter than most other bags on the market. For instance, Hyperlight Mountain Gear’s 2400 Southwest model weighs just 1.9 pounds and offers 40-liters of carrying capacity, making it a great choice for nearly any adventure.

Osprey’s Levity line (for men) and Lumina Line (for women) of ultralite packs is also an excellent option to consider.

Video Courtesy of Osprey Packs, Inc.

Tents made of all mesh have replaced traditional shelters for many lightweight hikers, but there are several other options to consider as well. For instance, a lot of ultra-lighters prefer to use a simple tarp to keep wind and rain at bay, while others have taken to using hammocks instead.

With a weight of just 5.8 ounces, the ENO Sub6 is a popular option for hammock campers, while the Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp is even lighter at 3.4 ounces. 

Rather than bringing a sleeping bag for the worst conditions that you could encounter, bring one that is designed for use in the conditions you are most likely to be camping in. That bag will naturally be smaller and lighter, but still comfortable. Should an unexpected cold snap hit, bundle up in some extra layers for added warmth.

Quick tip: Even though you’re going ultralight, bring an amenity or two with you on your trip, such as favorite snacks or a small journal to take notes. You’ll appreciate having a little luxury while out on the trail and it will make your entire experience that much more worthwhile.

 

Traditionally, hikers have worn rugged boots to keep their feet well protected on the trail, and while those shoes have gotten lighter over the years, they still tend to be heavier than what ultralight backpackers need.

Instead, consider switching to a pair of trail running shoes, which still offer plenty of protection and stability while also managing to cut a serious amount of weight. Altra’s Lone Peak 3.5 is a popular option that doesn’t compromise support while still weighing just 12.5 ounces.

While hydration reservoirs and Nalgene bottles are usually standard equipment on most hiking trips, they do add extra weight to your pack. A disposable 1-liter water bottle is inexpensive, refillable, weighs less than 6 ounces, and offers plenty of capacity to keep you hydrated on the trail. When you return home, simply recycle it.

Gear that can serve more than one purpose can save weight and make you more efficient. For instance, trekking poles are not only good for maintaining balance on tricky trails, but they can also serve as poles for your shelter, too.

Similarly, a Buff can be used as a hat, headband, balaclava, or even a scarf, while a multitool, like Leatherman’s Signal, can serve numerous functions, too. The more versatile a piece of gear is the more likely you’ll want to carry it. 

Photograph by Kraig Becker
Leaving electronics that may require battery packs or solar panels to recharge is another way to save weight while allowing you to go off-grid in peace.

Buying new lightweight gear isn’t always an option, but you can modify your existing gear to save some weight. For example, remove excesses belts, straps, and buckles from your backpack to shave ounces or leave tent stakes at home in favor of a free-standing shelter instead.

Ultralight backpackers will go to great lengths to remove unnecessary weight, including cutting the handle off their toothbrush, crafting a stove from a cat food can, and taking a first aid kit with only the bare minimum of items. 

A smartphone can be incredibly useful on the trail, serving as a GPS device, camera, and entertainment center. But mobile phones and other electronic gadgets also require power to keep them working, otherwise they just become dead weight. That means you’ll also need to carry a battery pack, solar panel, or some other method for keeping the device charged in the backcountry. 

All of these items add extra weight to your pack that you don’t necessarily need. Besides, part of the reason we go into the wilderness is to escape those devices in the first place. 

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Photograph Courtesy of Osprey Packs, Inc. http://stepoutside.org/article/10-tips-for-going-ultralight-on-the-trail http://stepoutside.org/article/10-tips-for-going-ultralight-on-the-trail Mon, 10 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
How to Choose the Best Times to Fish The best time to go fishing is whenever you can. While that old maxim has merit and speaks to the value of fishing just for the fun of it, there are times during the day, month and year when it seems bass and other species are especially eager to take whatever it is you’re offering them on the end of your line.

Here are five ways for you to determine the best times to head out for a day of fishing where you live.

Generally speaking, the warmer the weather, the better the fishing. No matter where you fish, the two best seasons to fish are spring and autumn. Spring is when bass shake off their winter doldrums and fatten up for spawning season. In postspawn, they pack on the pounds for their annual growth spurt.

In the fall, bass take advantage of the presence of young-of-the-year prey and add some weight to help them survive the lean times of winter.

Quick tip: Bass and other predators forage heavily along shorelines in autumn, hunting for sunfish and minnows feeding on spent terrestrial insects that fall into the water. Fish the banks with topwater lures such as the Arbogast Hula Popper or Heddon Tiny Torpedo

Additionally, aquatic vegetation, such as hydrilla and water lilies, become way stations for fish moving shoreward. This is the peak time to fish such cover with soft-plastic frogs and toads.

Early morning and late evening are regarded as prime times for fishing during the warm-weather months, but why? A number of factors are at work:

Morning

  • Various aquatic insects hatch at sunup and activate the food chain for everything from minnows to muskies.
  • Shad gather and spawn at daylight, too.
  • Phytoplankton and algae photosynthesis get a boost from the rising sun. This process both stimulates the daily feeding cycle and enhances dissolved oxygen content, which also energizes fish.

Evening

  • As the day wanes, the water temperature is likely optimal and fish metabolism is still conducive to feeding.
  • The cover of darkness makes fish such as bass feel more secure moving around in the open and in shallow water where baitfish tend to gather.
  • Then, too, nightfall is one of the environmental allies that help predatory fish ambush prey. Conversely, times when the sun is high in the sky cause fish to reposition in deeper water, get under the cover of aquatic vegetation, bridges and docks, or move into submerged trees and brushy cover. Bass go where they have to in order to find food and feel safe.

Quick tip: When targeting bass, fish the shallows with topwater lures, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and other “noisy” moving baits early and late in the day. Move offshore and slow down presentations of jigs and soft plastics as the air temperature warms and the sun climbs in the sky.

If shad are a primary forage, watch for schools moving offshore and fish crankbaits, jigging spoons and a variety of soft-plastic swimbaits that mimic baitfish.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure what it is about current in a lake or river that activates feeding among predators, but there’s no question that it improves fishing. Depending on how strong it is, current tends to gather forage fish together in tighter schools and makes it more efficient for bass and other species to feed on them.

Quick tip: Whenever you notice current starting to pick up, focus fishing efforts on places where there are ambush points. Typically, bass will concentrate in such areas and face the current to watch for vulnerable forage.

Cast lures upstream or across the current and work them downstream. To conserve energy, bass won’t hold in the main current, but adjacent to it near structure or cover that deflects the flow. Find such “sweet spots” and focus on them.


Current – whether caused by hydroelectric generation, flooding or wind – causes bass to move to ambush points such as wood cover, shady banks, current funnels and seams, eddy edges or bottom structure including points, humps or sandbars. The steady water movement also generates more dissolved oxygen, which stimulates feeding action.

Dial in the Best Times to Fish With Solunar Predictors

The jury is still out regarding whether the position of the sun and moon in relation to the earth directly affects fishing success. One thing is certain: Local factors such as the weather, hold the trump card.

Many anglers rely on solunar prognostications such as John Alden Knight’s Solunar Tables, which are found in magazines or newspapers as well as on various websites. Certainly, when the moon and sun rise and set has an impact on fish as it relates to light duration and visibility. For instance, some fishermen believe that an early moonrise in the evening prolongs feeding activity.

Photograph Courtesy of Datasport, Inc.
Many anglers are convinced that the position of the sun and moon relative to the earth influences bass movement and feeding. One thing is for sure: such positive reinforcement makes us fish harder and with more diligence at the peak fishing times.
 

Make up your own mind. Keep a journal that includes water and weather conditions on the best and worst fishing days you experience. Make note of when you catch fish and the circumstances, and how they match up with “best fishing times” suggested by solunar predictors such as The Original Doug Hannon Moon Clock. Over time, keeping such records will provide useful fishing information and help guide expectations.

Abrupt or gradual changes in the weather affect fishing for better or worse. For instance, barometric pressure drops as a summer thunderstorm approaches. As a result, fish become more active and feed aggressively.

Conversely, as a front moves on, the barometric pressure rises, and fish tend to sulk or become less active. Typically, they move offshore or into heavy cover such as aquatic vegetation. When the barometric pressure is more or less stable, it plays a reduced role in fish activity.

Quick tip: Take along a reliable barometer when you go fishing and check it occasionally for changes. Inexpensive fishing barometers are available for less than $20 from such sources as Cabela’s or Wholesale Marine.

If the barometric pressure is dropping, head for your best spots. If it’s rising, slow down and fish weedbeds and deeper water.

Bass and inshore saltwater fish, such as redfish and flounder, flourish in coastal areas where river deltas create a smorgasbord of freshwater and saltwater forage. Typically, incoming tides allow fish to roam areas that are normally too shallow and feed in emergent bank cover such as reeds, and submergent vegetation such as eelgrass.

Conversely, outgoing tides “pull” fish away from the banks into bottom depressions or channels. Either way, feeding opportunities also create fishing opportunities for anglers.

When the tide is flooding, fish closer to the bank; when it’s running out, fish deeper areas offshore. Fish generally become lethargic during periods of slack tide. 

Quick tip: When fishing submerged vegetation such as eelgrass, line up your boat so you can cast a spinnerbait or grub up current and parallel with the vegetation rather than across it. That way, your lure is more likely to sink and reach fish that are stationed under the eelgrass.

Regardless of whether you fish when all the best conditions seem to be in play, there are no guarantees that you’ll catch anything. The chances of success, however, are much greater in prime periods than they would be otherwise. Go fishing when you can, and especially on those days when environmental triggers are on your side.

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Photograph Courtesy of Bass Pro Shops In coastal areas, the influence of tides has an impact on fishing, for better or worse. When the tide is flooding shoreline vegetation, bass move in to feed. When the tide is receding, they tend to disperse in deeper water. http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-choose-the-best-times-to-fish http://stepoutside.org/article/how-to-choose-the-best-times-to-fish Mon, 10 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Campgrounds for Cool Summer Camping It’s sweltering out, and the air conditioning is beckoning, but you’re longing to get away on just one more camping trip of the summer. But where to go that’s not going to bake you to a crisp? This round-up of cool (literally) places to camp for those hot dog-days of summer won’t leave you sweating as you enjoy the outdoors.

The criteria we chose: each campground recommended below had to offer some sort of respite from the heat, whether that be in the form of a body of water, high elevation, or temperate forest. Each also had to be a destination you’d actually want to visit, with plenty of adjacent outdoor recreation opportunities nearby.

Here are our top 10 choices for campers looking to beat the heat this summer and camp where it’s always cool.

At this campground, located in the heart of Olympic National Park, you’ll be surrounded by moss and old-growth forest, providing a canopy of shade, making Hoh Campground the ultimate escape from the August heat found elsewhere across the country. And if you do want to venture out of your rainforest jungle, the coastal beaches of the Olympic Peninsula are only a short drive away.

Bonus: Those beaches are likely to be cool and breezy.

A summer camping pick in Nevada? Yep! While the base of Great Basin National Park is decidedly desert-like, to get to Wheeler Peak Campground, it’s necessary to traverse a 12-mile, winding roadway with an eight-percent grade, to get to an elevation of 9,886 feet. Once you’re there, a cool, mountain oasis awaits, with plenty of hiking trails amid Alpine forests.

Bonus: Your nights will be crisp and cool at this elevation.

Beachside camping is the way to go in the Southeast in summer, and it’s hard to beat Alabama’s white sand beaches. They call them ‘sugar beaches’ for good reason. Gulf State Park offers classic car and RV camping, within easy reach of Gulf Shores’ many dining options, nature trails, kayak and paddle board centers, and swimming beaches.

Bonus: Paddle board with dolphins at nearby Orange Beach.

If you want to spend a holiday on Cape Cod but failed to procure a beach house rental, Shawme-Crowell may even surpass your expectations. A campsite here comes with beach access daily, plus paved bike trails and mountain biking trails

Bonus: You can even book one of the campground’s six yurts for a little more luxury.

Cool Gear To Beat the Heat

Here are four essentials guaranteed to keep you cool this summer.

  1. Rugged cooler: You’ve seen these rugged, industry-grade coolers from Yeti, Pelican and Otterbox everywhere this summer, and for good reason. They’ll keep your food and drinks cool for days on end.
  2. Shade shirts: Available from ExOfficio or Columbia these shirts wick away sweat effortlessly, dry fast, and shade you from the sun. Worth the investment for those dog days of summer.
  3. Sun shade: For under $100, Eureka’s solar shade provides just enough protection at the beach or campsite, and is easy to tote, too.
  4. Tower paddle boards: You’re going to want to get on the water wherever you go, and Tower’s high-quality, inflatable paddle boards are easy to transport and perfect for lakes and rivers. Toss one in the back of the car.

Believe it or not, Southern and Central Oregon get hot, hot, hot in the summer. But you don’t have to escape to the metropolis of Portland. Any of Oregon’s numerous coastal campgrounds will provide respite from the heat of summer. Our favorite: Sunset Bay, located in on the central coast by the town of Coos Bay. In addition to a stunningly beautiful beach, Sunset Bay offers hiking trails to adjacent parks and yurt rentals.

Bonus: The nearby Tenmile Lakes, located just off Highway 101 between Coos Bay and Reedsport, offer some of the best bass fishing in Oregon along with good fishing for perch, trout and some of Oregon’s best bullhead catfishing.

Quick Tip: For last-minute camping trips, opt for campgrounds in national forest regions that offer first-come, first-served campsites, as most state and national park campgrounds book well in advance.

 

Yes, it’s a resort, but at its heart, Lakedale is still the humble campground of its early years, with unique car camping sites, canvas-sided tent cabins, and even luxury glamping options. Located on San Juan Island, Washington, Lakedale is situated, as the name suggests, on three small lakes, all of which invite water sport play and swimming. If that’s not enough to cool you down, miles of shoreline await on this island, and thanks to the SJI’s position right next to Canada, the air temps stay pretty manageable.

Bonus: Glimpse San Juan Island’s resident Orca whales in the summer season.

If you can’t escape to the high elevation of the Rockies for your late summer camping trip, situate yourself in the heart of the Black Hills, instead. Custer State Park is larger than most national parks, and offers scenic drives, American bison viewing, multiple lakes, and challenging hiking. You’re at a high enough elevation to beat the heat, but also close to the historic towns of Deadwood and Keystone, not to mention that little monument called Mt. Rushmore.

Bonus: A hike up Custer State Park’s Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) takes you to even higher elevation, where the views stretch beyond the state.

Quick Tip: When car camping in the summer, freeze gallon jugs of water ahead of time, and use them as ice packs in your cooler. As they melt, you have ice water for drinking at your disposal, and you don’t have to find a place to discard thawed ice packs.

 

The Midwest of the US can become sticky with humidity in the summer, which means you’ll want to retreat to the Great Lakes. Peninsula State Park entices with eight miles of shoreline right on Green Bay. You have five different campgrounds to choose from, all of which offer easy access to boating and swimming.

Bonus: Go during Wisconsin’s storied cherry-picking season and enjoy great deals at road side stands en route.

Taking a trip to see Santa Fe, and perhaps the southern Utah national parks? Opt for air conditioning…until you get to northern New Mexico. Yes, New Mexico isn’t all desert. There are 35 different camping areas in Carson National Forest, ranging from primitive to backcountry to car camping; Langua Larga offers four campsites right on the water’s edge of a lake, with additional dispersed camping available.

Bonus: The depth of this backcountry offers almost unlimited backpacking options for those seeking to get off the beaten path.

We love that this remote campground on Isle au Haut, a rugged island off the coast of Stonington, Maine, is only accessible by mailboat. There are only five primitive sites (you’ll want to reserve well in advance). But just like the other Acadia National Park campgrounds, coastal Maine’s cool summer temps will be welcome.

Bonus: The national park offerings on the mainland include all kinds of activities from scenic hikes to a network of carriage roads to explore by bicycle (rented from one of the many shops in the town of Bar Harbor).

 

 

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Photograph Courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-campgrounds-for-cool-summer-camping http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-campgrounds-for-cool-summer-camping Mon, 10 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
4 Easy Ways To Enjoy Mountain Biking On Your Vacation If you’ve been on a vacation to an outdoor destination in the past few years, you’ve likely noticed a new phenomenon: cycle paths, single track mountain bike trails, rail trails and bike parks now dominate the outdoor adventure scene. What just a decade ago might have been considered a specialized, extreme sport is now accessible to everyone, from serious mountain bikers to families. Luckily for all of us, including a mountain bike outing during your vacation is easy, affordable, and satisfying for the enthusiast in all of us.

Maybe you’re already planning a cross-country road trip this summer, with stops outside national or state parks. Ask park rangers for the best public- access trails in the area. Perhaps you’re hitting some ski resorts in the summer season, many ski resorts offer ticketed lift-served single track as a source of income during the off-season. Getting a ride up the mountain can be a fun treat.

If you’re camping while taking in some of North America’s iconic landmarks, find a local bike shop and ask for an area route map. No matter what type of outdoor vacation you’re embarking on, you can add mountain biking to the mix. 

If you’re not familiar with this term, a “rail trail” is an unused railroad track that’s been removed and converted to a dirt or paved bike trail. These trails are ideal for family riding, because the grade is naturally level, they’re free to use, and, of course, there’s an absence of any car traffic. 

The Mickelson Trail connecting the small 'Wild West'-style towns found in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of our favorites. Additional rail trails can be found everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Maine. Most have bike shops ready to rent you gear at one end or both (more on renting gear below).

Single-track mountain biking trail networks are most often found on National Forest Service land. Like rail trails, they are free to use. The best way to find them is by inquiring at a local bike shop, at which there are almost always maps. You can also find trail networks on the vast lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Most trail networks include both hiking trails and mountain biking trails, so be sure to follow signage indicating which are bike-friendly. Expect up and downhill grades. The best will indicate trail level on the map or on signage, usually rating trails by difficulty (advanced trails will include a lot of uphill, downhill and curves, for instance). As always, stay on designated trails. Tread Lightly has a great list of tips for responsible mountain biking

Our favorite trail network lies just outside of Sisters, Oregon, in the high desert, but excellent systems can be found outside of Moab, Utah and Breckenridge, Colorado. 

Quick Tip: To find bike trail systems close to home, contact local bike shops for advice on the best trails for kids. Visit the webpage for your local National Forest Service, as many of their hiking trails are suitable for beginner mountain bikers as well (just be sure to check the rules for pedestrian-only trails). Also consider joining a local mountain biking club to get kids comfortable before a trip. For instance, many International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) clubs host Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day events and additional events designed to get kids out on trails.

 

Bike parks are slightly different, in that they offer an enclosed space of mountain bike trail elements designed for training and teaching purposes. Kids can often find lessons here, or simply get used to trail elements such as rails, boardwalks, and boulders before embarking on the single- track trail systems. 

Most include “pump tracks,” which are short loop trails designed for very young children to navigate. The Frisco Bike Park in Frisco, Colorado is one of the best, where novices can try their skills next to pros. Bike parks, unlike trail networks and rail trails, often do come with an admission cost.

This option is my teenagers’ favorite. Many ski resorts have adapted downhill runs into a network of single- track downhill “gravity-based" trails, which are accessed by ski lift (lifts are adapted as well, to haul bikes up the mountain).

For the price of a summer mountain biking lift ticket (usually still much less than a winter ski ticket, though prices have been going up), riders can ride up the lifts and bike down runs that vary from beginner to advanced.

Sometimes, “cat-track-style” dirt roads are also accessible from the top, providing longer, more mellow riding to the bottom. 

Our favorite ski resorts for gravity-based mountain biking include Park City Mountain Resort in Utah and Northstar Resort in Northern California. 

Quick Tip: Lessons will cost extra at ski resorts, but they can be well-worth the expense to ensure kids’ stay safe. Extra protective gear, such as a full- face- guard helmet, are smart choices, too. Bike rentals are always on-site. Consider looking for a biking academy setting, which will offer a structure similar to a day’s ski lesson.

 

I recommend renting quality mountain bikes (or cruiser-style bikes for rail trails) before buying. You’ll save yourself the hassle of transporting your bikes on your vacations, and you’ll be more certain of having the correct bike for the terrain you’re tackling.

Take it from me: we once tried to bring a quality hybrid mountain bike onto a challenging, rocky single track at a gravity-based bike system on Mt. Hood, Oregon. That bike looked more like a pretzel after just one run. (Luckily, the rider was unscathed.)

Bike rentals on-site at ski resorts and in bike shops adjacent to popular bike trail systems will have the shock absorbers, lightweight frames, and tires you need on tough terrain.

However, in addition to the gear you would normally pack, you should come with your own helmet and other protective gear, to ensure the proper fit. We’ve often found ourselves at bike rental shops, only to realize they lacked the correct sizing for our kids’ protective gear. Add knee and elbow pads for go-getters, and remember to bring closed-toed shoes (no sandals).

Quick Tip: Want to buy your own bikes on a budget? Consider buying a used mountain bike from an online community page, like Craigslist, or from your local bike shop (after all, kids outgrow them all the time). Alternatively, prioritize buying a quality bike frame, and upgrade individual components as your budget allows. Before heading into a bike shop to purchase a mountain bike, make sure you know the bike user’s inseam, height and the size of his or her current bike.

 

Enjoy the trails while traveling!

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Photograph Courtesy Matthew Inden_Miles The Bureau of Land Management offers great riding opportunities on the public lands they manage and it’s all free. http://stepoutside.org/article/4-easy-ways-to-enjoy-mountain-biking-on-your-vacation http://stepoutside.org/article/4-easy-ways-to-enjoy-mountain-biking-on-your-vacation Thu, 06 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500
Pack Your Backpack the Right Way in 5 Easy Steps Learning how to properly pack a backpack is a true art form that every outdoor enthusiast should master. Whether you’re heading into the backcountry for a weekend camping excursion or hiking the Appalachian Trail end-to-end, knowing how to keep all of your gear well organized and easy to access, is a handy skill to have at your disposal. And while it may seem like loading up a pack is a straight-forward, simple affair, there are a few tips and tricks that will make the process much easier, while saving some wear and tear on your body while out on the trail.

Before you even start packing your backpack, the very first thing you’ll want to do is organize the gear that you’ll be taking with you on the trip.

Start by laying it all out on the floor to get a sense of everything you plan to bring along. This gives you the opportunity to take a quick inventory of your equipment and identify the things that might be missing from the collection, not to mention the items that aren’t necessary for that particular outing. It is also a good way to assess whether or not your backpack has the capacity to haul everything you want to take with you.

Once you’ve collected all of the gear that you’ll be using on your trip, the next step is to start putting all of it inside your pack.

Naturally that means starting at the bottom, where you’ll place the items that you’ll least likely need to access throughout the day or when you first arrive at camp that night. Those items generally include the following:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Extra camp shoes
  • Any layers of clothing that you aren’t likely to need on the trail that day. 

To get started:

A. First place your sleeping bag at the very bottom of the pack. This helps give the bag some shape and provides a soft cushion where the pack rests against your lower back.

B. If you’re bringing an extra pair of shoes, place them on top of the sleeping bag.

C. Then stuff your additional layers of clothing on or around the shoes to help hold everything securely in place.

Quick tip: Getting a hydration reservoir into a backpack that is fully loaded with gear is extremely challenging. If you’re using a reservoir to stay hydrated while on the trail, be sure to fill it with water and put it into your backpack first.

The middle section of your backpack is where you want to store heavier items that you won’t necessarily need while hiking.

This creates a good center of gravity, helping you to maintain your sense of balance on the trail, even while scrambling over rocks or up and down rough terrain. If bulky items are too close to the bottom they can cause the backpack to hang lower than it should, potentially causing discomfort. If those items are placed near the top, they can alter the center of gravity, creating instability. They would also just be in the way when trying to access items that need to be more readily available.

The gear that you’ll want to stash in the core section of your pack includes your:

  • Tent
  • Camp stove
  • Cooking pots
  • Any food that you won’t need throughout the day.
  • It is also a good place to store extra clothing, fuel canisters, and a bear canister (for storing food) if one is required where you’ll be camping.

Finally, you’ll top off your backpack with the items that you’re most likely need to access during the day, as well as the things you’ll want close at hand should an emergency arise.

For example, if it starts to rain, you’ll want to be able to grab your rain gear as quickly as possible, so having a waterproof jacket in an easily accessible place is a good idea. The top of the pack is also a good place to stash your lunch, too, as you’re likely to stop somewhere along the way for a quick meal.

Other items that should be packed close to the top include:

  • An insulated jacket
  • First aid kit
  • Any toilet supplies 

The top of your pack is also the perfect location for your headlamp, extra snacks, and a water filter, as those are important items you may need to grab while en route from one campsite to the next.

Quick tip: Some backpackers prefer to pack their extra pieces of clothing last, using the layers to fill in extra space around their other gear. This can be a good way to ensure that everything is held firmly in place, while still making the most of the space that is available.

With the inside of your pack quickly filling up, you’ll find extra storage space outside of the bag to be a handy place to store smaller items. For instance, most packs have gear straps at the bottom that are perfect for attaching a sleeping pad. Lashing points are good for holding trekking poles and ice axes, or attaching a GPS device or compass via a lanyard for easy access.

External pockets are designed for holding tent poles, a water bottle, or a pair of shoes. A lightweight solar panel can even be connected to the pack for charging small electronics while you’re on the go.

Most backpacks have hip belts equipped with small zippered pockets, too. These are handy for keeping energy bars, a camera, or a smartphone within easy reach.

Once you’ve securely loaded all of the gear in your pack and made sure your footwear is in order, you’ll be ready to hit the trail. By following these guidelines, the weight load should be well distributed, and all of your equipment should be organized, too. This will make hiking with a full pack much more enjoyable and keep things simple when arriving at your campsite at the end of the day.

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Photograph by Kraig Becker http://stepoutside.org/article/pack-your-backpack-the-right-way-in-5-easy-steps http://stepoutside.org/article/pack-your-backpack-the-right-way-in-5-easy-steps Tue, 04 Jun 2024 00:00:00 -0500