Beneath the Sleeping Bag: A Guide To Camping Sleep Platforms

Ultralite Cot Getting a good nights sleep in the back country can be a daunting prospect, fortunately it doesn’t have to be. Keep reading for a detailed look at all the camping sleep platforms available at and to figure out which one is right for you.

First thing to consider when picking a solid sleep platform should be how you like to sleep and camp. Do you prefer firm surfaces? Elevated and cushioned? Will it fit in your tent? These are all things one should consider before making their purchase. Another important consideration is how you will be traveling. If you are backpacking a lighter, more portable platform would be ideal whereas campers taking a car to their destination would do well with virtually any option.

There are a few basic things that you should understand when shopping for your sleep platform. One being that camping sleep systems consist of two basic parts: a sleep platform and sleeping bag. While the other is that camping sleep platforms are the lesser known half of the camping sleep systems and come in various styles: cots, air mattresses, sleeping pads and hammocks. Here’s a look at each:


Cots come in two styles today, ultralight and standard. Ultralight cots sit just off the ground and use a folding pole frame with a special fabric spread across via tension. Cots were previously a platform that tended to be a bit clunky however, manufacturers are continually tweaking their designs to make these ultralight cots more appealing to campers who are backpacking or do not want to carry a lot of weight around.

Standards cots, on the other hand, are intended for car campers. Generally, they are very easy to setup and are similar in height to a bed. Also like a bed, standard cots offer under bed storage that makes organization easier.

Cots are some of the most comfortable sleep platforms and are most practical during the hotter months as they lack insulation between you and the air circulating around you. However, when used in tandem with a pad or blanket between their cot and sleeping bag, a cot can be a cozy and warm sleep platform during the winter as well.

Shop ACK’s selection of camping cots.

Kelty Good Nite Air Bed
Kelty Good Nite Air Bed

Air Beds

The Air beds appeal is in its similarity to your bed at home. Its comfort and convenience has made the air bed a fan favorite among campers for good reason- its endless options, ease of set up, and the “home-like” familiarity it provides in an otherwise rugged and unfamiliar camp site.

Most air mattresses come equipped with a foot or electric pump to inflate in a relatively short amount of time. Although these beds have been heavy in the past, many manufactures are creating beds that are lighter in weight so that backpackers and car campers alike can rest in comfort during their trips. If you are looking for something that will ease you into a camping lifestyle an air mattress would be the easiest transition from home to tent.

Shop ACK’s selection of air beds.

Sleeping Pads

Exped DownMat 7 Sleeping Pad
Exped DownMat 7 Sleeping Pad

The standard in camping sleep platforms today is the sleeping pad. They come in a variety of styles but in general, sleeping pads represent the lightest and most pack-able option around making it a great options for backpackers as well as car travelers. They provide on average about an inch of padding and insulation, which, while it might not sound like a lot, is a huge improvement over nothing at all. The two most common styles are inflatable and self-inflating, both of which utilize air for cushioning.

Inflatable pads are inflated easily with or without a pump and roll into a very compact size for easy travel. Self-inflating pads on the other hand use special foam that decompresses and fills the air gaps when you unseal the valve and unroll the pad. Resealing the valve traps air within the foam cells and boosts insulation and comfort. However, self-inflating pads are a bit larger when rolled up than air only pads.

Shop ACK’s selection of sleeping pads.

Foam Pads

Light, inexpensive and nearly indestructible, foam sleeping pads are a popular option for campers and those who just want a little something beneath them while they sleep. These pads use a closed cell foam that is particularly effective at insulating when sleeping on cold ground or on rough surfaces that could puncture an air filled pad.

Shop ACK’s selection of foam pads.

ENO Singlenest Hammock
ENO Singlenest Hammock


Much different than any of the other camping sleeping platforms available to back country campers, hammocks offer an intriguing option that many have come to love. Hammocks require minimal set up and are extremely packable and lightweight making them a viable option for campers who tend to pack light. They also offer a unique experience of not sleeping on a flat surface, which for many is an acquired taste.

Hammocks initially offer no insulation, so unless paired with a sleeping pad, they are more suited for warmer  weather. That being said, a wide variety of hammock accessories exist to help you setup and sleep in you hammock comfortably anywhere and anytime.

Shop ACK’s selection of hammocks.


Ultimately, when choosing your next sleep platform, you need to consider what makes you feel the most comfortable as well as how you tend to go camping. Are you a light packer versus a heavy packer? A backpacker versus a car traveler? Consider the weight you are willing to carry and the environment you will be in. Once these are taken into consideration check out with this handy guide and choose your new portable bed!

Kelty TraiLogic, Trail Science Just In Time for Spring

Have you ever laid out all your camping gear next to your backpack before a trip and snapped a picture just so you can point to it later and say that you fit such a great big assortment of gear in your pack?

There’s a certain feeling of satisfaction that comes from having a well organized camping pack – a pride in your preparedness. The problem is that gear rarely operates as a unit and is instead usually purchased piecemeal and that can create a bit of a hassle. Gear designed to work together is the next level in camping, and that’s just what Kelty has created with their TraiLogic Collection.

Meet the Kelty TraiLogic Collection

Kelty TraiLogic Collection

Just in time for spring camping, the Kelty TraiLogic Collection is more of a system than anything. It’s made up of gear that falls into four product categories: tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and backpacks. Each piece is intended to make your next trip into the back-country as comfortable and hassle-free as possible, and can operate individually or as a four piece system.

The following pieces of the collection are available at ACK:

Kelty TraiLogic PKThe Kelty TraiLogic Pack (PK)

Being a company who got their start in backpacks, it makes sense that the centerpiece of the Kelty TraiLogic collection is the PK. The 50 liter PK is intelligently designed to perform effortlessly and accommodate all your essentials (whether or not they include other TraiLogic pieces).

The PK50 is highly compartmentalized for easy organization and a speedier campsite setup. A removable 15 liter outer compartment (intended for clothing) sits on the front of the pack and is meant to be thrown inside the tent at camp to create a 35 liter day pack for you day hikes. Oh, and the PK is completely zipper-less, so it can be rolled down to cinch everything down and avoid any type of  broken zipper catastrophe. See more about it in this video:

The Kelty TraiLogic Sleeping Bag (SB) and Sleeping Pad (PD)

The SB is the bag that falls in the Kelty TraiLogic collection and is accompanied by two different pad options, the PDa and PDsi.

The SB is a 800-fill power lightweight bag that uses Kelty’s popular DriDown insulating material that will keep the warmth in and the water out. These things stay dry long and if you do somehow get them wet, they dry quick too. The SB comes in a version rated for 20 degrees and 35 degrees.

The PDa (non-insulated) and PDsi (insulated) are ergnonomically designed to mold to your body and ensure comfort and minimize weight. They’re both self-inflating and (you guessed it) fit perfectly into the PK.

See more about the SB in the video:

TN2 configured for stargazing.
TN2 configured for stargazing.

The Kelty TraiLogic Tent (TN)

Uniquely designed for easy packing and to fit in the Kelty TraiLogic PK or any other pack you might have, the TN comes in both 2 and 3 person versions.  Unlike other tents, the TN features shorter-sectioned poles so you can pack it into a flat, rectangular tent cube.

Setup and breakdown on the TN is very easy thanks to its innovative snap-clip design. It also features a stargazing fly which offers an unobstructed view of the night sky – but if the weather does turn, a fly can be easily deployed to cover the tent without ever leaving the sleeping bag.

See how it works in this video:

With the introduction of the Kelty TraiLogic collection, longtime campers might find themselves at a disadvantage to those new to the activity. Do you cast aside your long used gear to adopt this new system? The answer is probably no, but you can always start to slowly assemble your own personal collection, one piece as a time. If you’re in the market for all four pieces then look no further – you won’t find a better assortment of gear to kick-start your spring adventures.




Mother’s Day 2014 – Sunshine & Quality Time

Mothers Day Family Outing

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and if you’re still grasping at straws trying to figure out what to do May 11th (Mother’s Day if you didn’t already know that), look no further. Some of us at ACK came up with a few awesome ideas that will surely have your mother anxiously awaiting work on Monday to partake in the office morning brag fest near the Keurig.

The Camping Trip

Devote your weekend to spending some quality time with your mom under the stars. Camping is a great way to get outside, unplug, and unwind. Pack up your car with all the necessities, a tent, bedding, chairs, a portable grill, s’mores supplies and a Yeti cooler to keep that food safe from bears and sneaky neighbors. Then head out to your nearby camping grounds to enjoy each others company and a fun weekend spent outdoors.

Take A Hike

Being active and outdoors is always a great way to bond with your mom and enjoy some beautiful spring weather. Hiking is another inexpensive option that doesn’t require an army’s worth of effort and delivers great results every time. Check out your local park, pick a trail, pack a lunch, and get outside. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and take the necessary safety precautions

Kimberly out for a paddle with her little friend. beforehand.

Hit The Water

Take your mom out for a day on the water this Mother’s Day. Whether that entails kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, fishing, or just going for a dip; a day in the water is a good day indeed. ACK is currently offering a great deal on Custom Packages – including kayak and SUP packages. Build her something beautiful and keep her smiling from ear to ear.

She’s Not The Outdoorsy Type?

How about setting up a backyard oasis? A lazy Sunday could be the best gift you could give your mom. Set her up with a hammock, sweet tea, good music and some homemade BBQ then sit back and relax. In the end, it’s not always about the gifts you get her, but the time you spend together.

Happy Mothers Day! XO Dayvee @ ACK

How To Wash Your Eno Hammock

Guest Blog by the Eno Hammock Team

Life happens to hammocks. Mud, coffee and trail mix can most likely be found on or in many hammocks after a full season of hanging around in them. Don’t fret too much though, it’s easy to keep your Eno Hammock clean and fresh throughout it’s lifetime.

The nature of the parachute nylon is fairly dirt resistant to begin with, but it’s always good to spot clean extra dirty spots along the way. Sometimes, it’s nice to revert your hammock back into a flawless, soft, breezy oasis.

Eno hammock carabinerStep 1. Remove Carabiners.

Make sure you don’t wash the carabiners! Remove them from your Eno Hammock and set them to the side. Be sure to keep track of them so when your hammock is clean and dry you can get right back to hammocking!

Step 2. Gentle Detergent.

Add just a little dose of a gentle detergent. Wash your hammock alone, with nothing else in the machine. This will get it the cleanest. Do not add fabric softeners or any additional cleaning agents. Wash on cold!!

Step 3: Line Dry.

It’s best to do this chore on a sunny breezy day. That way you can line dry your Eno Hammock outside. Regarless if you do it indoors or out, air drying is what we recommend. When drying outside in the fresh air, it won’t take longer than thirty minutes for your hammock to completely dry.

Step 4: Get In Your Hammock.

Hopefully it doesn't stay clean for long!
Hopefully it doesn’t stay clean for long!

Re-attach your carabiners and get outside…once it’s clean, it’s time to get your Eno Hammock dirty again! :)




8 Ways to be a Backcountry Chef

From Eno Team Member, Carolyn Ellison

With Spring in the air, our weekends will soon be filled with hammocking, camping, playing in rivers and then when we’re all done…we’ll be hungry. Cooking–or eating rather–is personally one of my favorite times of camping trips. You just can’t get that campfire taste at home. There is an art to cooking out in the middle of nowhere however. Read on to explore these tips on how to become a backcountry chef!

Can It1. Can It

Depending on what kind of camping you’re doing, try to minimize the amount of space your kitchen-on-the-go takes up. For example, if you’re doing car camping, opt for canned goods instead of taking up up valuable real estate in your cooler.

Chop it2. Chop At Home

Try to minimize the amount of work you have to do on site by preparing as much as possible at home. Does your recipe call for onion? Then before you head into the woods, chop the necessary amount at home. So peel, mince, dice and pack it up!

SOG Multitool3. Simplify Your Tools

If you think you’re a star in the kitchen, you probably have an affinity for kitchen gadgets and toys. However try to resist the urge to haul all these out into the wilderness with you. By the time you’re breathing the fresh air and the smell of campfire hits your nostrils–your resourceful instincts will kick in and you’ll be totally content with just using a multi-tool.

make a plan4. Make A Plan

Plan your menu! And as you are planning it, keep in mind the environment you’ll be cooking in. In other words, research recipes that are suited for cooking on a campfire or camp-stove. Camping recipes have already considered the elements that you’ll be cheffing it up in. This will aid you in an easier–but just as tastier–cooking experience. You can always try out a dehydrated meal too!

time5. Time Is Of The Essence

As a backcountry chef, remember that 10 minute dinners are awesome too. Keep in mind some short and super easy meals for multiple day trips. You don’t want to get back to camp after an active day playing in the woods for ten hours and return to camp hungry with multiple hours of prep, cooking, and waiting for that intricate recipe you had planned.

spice6. Spice It Up

You can still spice it up in the woods. Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to leave the salt, pepper, and olive oil at home. These items somehow taste better miles away from civilization. But you don’t need to lug them out in their original packaging. Bring along portable containers and if all the spices are going to get mixed together anyways, go ahead and blend them at home and throw them in the same container.

pan7. One Is All You Need

Laziness is easily translated to efficient-ness when cooking as a backcountry chef. Don’t be afraid to mix up the recipes and modify them to one pot shots. No one likes to clean, especially in the dark in the woods. Make it easy and get to marshmallows and guitars sooner than later.

bears8. Don’t Feed The Bears

Clean up and put it all away. This is important. Unless you’re camping someplace where you have no threat of wildlife, it is crucial you properly clean and store your food and food items before you turn in. Try to camp close to a creek or river so you can wash your pots and utensils. Put all food and things that still smell like food in a bear bag and go properly hang it up. There’s no way to ruin a trip faster then to have an unexpected run in with a hungry bear.

For the Coffee Lover: GSI Outdoors Coffee Products

For you, coffee is not merely black; it is not simply a beverage to be had with cream and sugar, no, coffee is a ritual, an affirmation of life, a warm embrace in the morning and a meditation on the flavor of the day to be savored with dessert. For you, only the finest beans, the most aromatic roast and the fullest flavor will do. Coffee is a world tour, a rich journey from Kona to Columbia and from Ethiopia to Java awakening you to new experiences and new ideas. For you, GSI Outdoors has created the coffee products needed to wake up to coffee now matter where you find yourself.

Shop GSI Outdoors Coffee Products now.

Gaiters: What Are They, And What Are Different Types For?

by the Outdoor Research Team

Outdoor Research Gaiters

Planning on tromping through frosted peaks after the Polar Vortex, heading out for a hike during this spring’s colossal snow melt or lacing up for an ultra-long trail run? The extra layer of protection from gaiters will help keep your outing a challenging adventure rather than a painful sufferfest.

While waterproof hiking boots or ski boots will provide a huge amount of protection, gaiters work in tandem with your boots to protect the little nooks and crannies that are vulnerable to being encroached by abrasive environments or sneaky drops of rain or snow – like the top of the boot.

Whether snow, rain or overgrown trails are the terrain du jour, there are different types of gaiters that excel for different activities, each with different features. But which kind of gaiter you need largely depends on what you’ll be doing. So how do you choose?

Rocky Mountain High Gaiter
Rocky Mountain High Gaiter

It all depends on your outing. But first, let’s dissect the construction of the gaiter. Gaiters typically run from the bottom of your foot to mid-calf and are made with sturdy weather-resistant materials. This design and fabrication works well to protect your foot and lower leg from deep snow, wet underbrush or debris that you can pick up while hiking, skiing or mountaineering. Low gaiters are about ankle high and are designed for less extreme conditions.

In addition to the fabrication and design, most gaiter are also equipped with: a strap that fits over the instep of your boot or shoe or lace hook that holds the gaiter in place; a top closure that cinches or clips tight to seal the upper half of the gaiter; and some sort of entry system. Often the entry system is a closure like Velcro, but can also be a zipper. In the case of ultra minimalist gaiters, a tighter, stretchy design serves this purpose. Typically, our gaiters have a front entry – where the closure system runs down the length of your shin – which makes getting in and out of the gaiter on the trail or in the hills a hassle-free task.

Austin Kayak carriers two different types of Outdoor Research Gaiters: Alpine and Trail.

Alpine gaiters are crafted to protect your feet while hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, these gaiters are made with waterproof and breathable fabric uppers and also an abrasion-resistant lower to protect your ankles and lower legs from sticks, rocks and other trail debris. The Crocodile Gaiters™ are our time-tested classic with a fitted design and sturdy fabrication of GORE-TEX® upper and Cordura® lower. As at home in snowy environment as a dry and brushy trail, the Crocs (as they have come to be known) will fit well in your pack’s essentials kit and come in both Men’s Crocodiles and Women’s Crocodiles styles. See more about them in the video:

On the other hand, trail gaiters are lightweight and breathable and provide the most basic protection against wet terrain and the thick underbrush of trails. They pair with anything from cross-country ski boots to trail running shoes. Take, for example, our Ultra Trail Gaiter, a favorite for Outdoor Research athlete Chris dePolo – a ridiculously long distance hiker who has hiked over 8,000 miles and spent 487 days in the woods in the last four years.

“Anything that goes in my backpack or on my body has to be small, lightweight and dry quickly,” say dePolo, which is why the Ultra Trail Gaiters are perfect. These breathable, water-resistant gaiters are stretchy with a molded boot section to conform to the shoe and streamline the design. Designed with an endurance trail runner in mind, these gaiters help protect against the trail’s hazards when you don’t have time to avoid them.

Simply put, gaiters protect your feet and help keep you focused on your moving forward comfortably. “I’ve had zero blisters in my 8,000 miles,” says dePolo, “and it’s all about the gaiters keeping stuff out.”

Shop all Outdoor Research Gaiters here.

Find Energy Everywhere with the BioLite Camp Stove

BioLite Camp Stove
BioLite Camp Stove

Simultaneously cook food and charge electronics with the BioLite Camp Stove

As much as we want to escape electronics when we adventure outside, bringing along a mobile device can be a convenience as well as a safety measure. The question then becomes, how do I keep it charged? Enter the BioLite Camp Stove.

This new portable wood burning camp stove is unique in that it serves two purposes: cooking and charging electronics. Note that it will charge anything that hooks into a USB port, not just your mobile device. This means if you had say, a rechargeable USB headlamp, it’d do just fine with that. Here’s how it works:

Neat idea right? If you’re like me, you probably think it sounds too good to be true and there’s a good chance that your first impression of it probably is. This stove won’t turn a few twigs into a fully charged battery for your iPhone. However, it WILL provide a truly on-demand source of emergency power when you need it and, oh yeah, it makes a very effective cooking stove too.

Ditch the solar charger and liquid fuel

One of the biggest benefits of the BioLite Camp Stove is that it replaces two pieces of gear rather than just one, your fossil fuel powered camp stove and solar charger. Three, if you count the fuel and fuel canisters that you’re required to bring to power your typical camp stove. To me, this makes it’s price tag of $129.95, which is on par with a number of other fossil fuel powered stoves like the Jetboil Sol and MSR Dragonfly, very appealing.

BioLite Price Tag

It also excuses the weight of the BioLite. My first impression when I saw that it weighed a little over 2 lbs was that this thing is just too heavy for a stove! But this extra weight easily cancels out when you leave behind your liquid fuel, fuel canister and solar charging gear.

There are already some great accessories available for the BioLite Camp Stove including a portable grill and combination kettle/pot. Check them out and let me know what you think about the new BioLite Camp Stove by commenting below!

Lose the Zippers with Sierra Design’s Backcountry Bed

Backcountry Bed Presents New Sleeping Option for Campers

The Backcountry Bed
The Backcountry Bed

Sierra Designs has steered away from the timeless sleeping bag design to create a completely new way for campers to tackle backcountry sleeping with their Backcounrty Bed. Unlike the mummy style sleeping bags, the Backcountry Bed is intended to perform like a traditional bed at home. It has a simple design with a very large opening in the middle section to enter with an attached comforter can be pulled around the user which seals the opening once inside.

Backcountry Bed Sleeping OptionsWhat makes this new sleeping option so great is that it offers a wide range of sleeping positions compared to a normal bag. Prefer to sleep on your side? Not a problem! Starting to get too warm? Just fling the blanket off a little to cool down. It also has a foot vent that allows you to slip your feet out of the bottom of the bag on those warm nights.

The reason Sierra Designs has named it the Backcountry Bed (in addition to the built in comforter functioning just like the comforter on your real bed) is that it has an sleeping pad sleeve on the bottom. This allows you to secure your sleeping pad to the bag to give you the experience of a fully integrated bed.

Watch the video below to see more about it:

So what do you think of the Backcountry Bed? Let us know by commenting below!

Tips for Cleaning Your CamelBak

Kelsey from ACK Houston give tips on cleaning your CamelBak.

Remember to dry after cleaning your CamelBak!
Remember to dry after cleaning your CamelBak!

“Do you have to clean your CamelBak? Even if you just put water in it?”

I’ve been asked about this several times recently and thought I would write a bit about it for our online readers. The answer is yes. Ideally you should clean and air out your CamelBak after every use, but if you are like me then sometimes after a long hike or backpacking trip, cleaning your CamelBak is not the first thing you do or sometimes forget to do all together.

The result can be a smelly CamelBak. Cleaning your CamelBak can be a little more challenging than a standard water bottle but is something that must be done to prevent bacteria from growing and bad taste and odors from developing.

You can use household cleaning supplies such as hot water and baking soda or soap and water. To clean, you fill the reservoir and flip upside down and make sure the cleaning solution runs through the hose. You may want to use a diluted bleach solution or the cleaning tablets that Camelbak makes to really clean and sterilize.

Cleaning your CamelBak is important especially if you use it for beverages other than water, like sports drinks, because the sugar in these causes bacteria to grow. Even if you do just use your CamelBak for water, after sitting or being in the heat it can develop a mildew smell or old water taste. If you are sensitive to the cleaning soaps you may want to use baking soda after cleaning with bleach or the Camelbak cleaning tablets. This is also something you can do when your CamelBak is new to get rid of any plastic odors or taste. If you do choose to use your own cleaning product you may want to consider purchasing the CamelBak cleaning brush kit for around $10. It includes a brush for the water reservoir and a small brush on a wire that is designed specifically to fit into the drinking hose and thoroughly clean that hard to reach area. This is a must have if you have left your CamelBak sitting and mold starts to grow inside of the tube, it can still be salvaged and cleaned.

Another important step to remember is after cleaning you must let your CamelBak air out to avoid any moisture from sitting inside. The CamelBak Antidote Reservoir Cleaning Kit, which cost around $20, not only comes with the two brushes and cleaning tablets but a handy hanger and props to open up the reservoir and allow the CamelBak to dry completely.

We’ve got a wide selection of CamelBak models, replacement parts and cleaning materials available in store and online. Give your local store a call to see what they have in stock and check out our online selection here.