Camping the Kelty Way

An appreciation for one of America’s most sought after camping gear manufacturers.

Kelty LogoTo my delight, I was recently introduced to the Kelty brand and after my first experience, was quickly converted to a loyal user. Since 1952, Kelty has built affordable, reliable outdoor gear that enables everyone, from the first-time camper to the experienced mountaineer, to embrace the outdoors with confidence.

Kelty Tetoon 2 Tent
Kelty Teton 2 Tent

My first experience included the use of the Kelty Teton 2 Tent for an overnight paddling trip on the Colorado River. I needed something that was light but with plenty of room since I am 6′ 2″ and if you know me, I like my space. While I could have easily shared this with my wife, I would have probably considered the Kelty Yellowstone 4 Tent if she had joined me on this particular adventure. Setup of the Teton 2 was a breeze. I typically follow directions when putting something together for the first time but noticed that three quarters of the way through, I hadn’t even opened up the instructions. I also took notice of the craftsmanship with tight seams, a zipper that actually didn’t snag onto anything and the use of quality materials. That is where it all began.

I began researching Kelty products and found that they carry more than just tents. They also design and manufacture anything from pillows, mattresses and pads to folding chairs, backpacks and camping kitchens – just to name a few items. Lucky for me, I am employed at Austin Canoe and Kayak, which gives me an opportunity to not only look at the products in person but also “test-drive” them.

Kelty Deluxe Lounge Chair
Kelty Deluxe Lounge Chair

One of those products in particular is the Kelty Deluxe Lounge Chair. It may seem like your average folding chair but you’ll quickly notice that it comes with a variety of unique features. For instance, it provides a three-position backrest that can convert the chair into something more like a recliner. After sitting in it for a few minutes, I was tempted to just stay put for the rest of the day – very comfortable. This chair almost hugs you with a seat bottom, back and headrest that are padded and oversized. You’ll also notice that there are two beverages holders and each one is much larger than average with a secondary area for your snacks, or they can be adjusted to fit large one-liter drinks. The side mesh pockets are also huge and convenient for stashing things like flashlights or bug spray and I personally like the fact that it comes with its own bottle opener. Of course, quality is key and they didn’t cut corners with this product. You’ll never look at folding chairs the same way again.

Speaking of comfort, after paddling or hiking for hours, a good nights rest is priceless but when storage and/or carrying capacity is an issue, you can always turn to Kelty’s Light Year sleeping bags. The XP 20 is great for this region as it can get and stay pretty warm throughout the entire camping season. When it does get too warm, I like the fact that you can unzip the foot vent that cools down your feet. However, this is a 3 season sleeping bag so even if a mild cold front unexpectedly hits, this will keep you warm enough to enjoy a good night’s rest. When it comes time to packing or paddling out, you’ll find that it compresses into a small bag, which can easily be stowed in your backpack, kayak or canoe.

Kelty Deluxe Pillow
Kelty Deluxe Pillow

Combine the sleeping bag with a Kelty Luxury Camp Pillow and you have a match made in heaven. This little pillow provides big comfort. It has a stuff sack on the bottom that allows you to…well, stuff clothing or towels into the pillow creating a thicker more comfortable headrest without loosing space in your pack. I also like the fact that it compresses into a tiny little bag that weighs nothing. This pillow is ideal for camping but can also be used in airplanes, auto or even at the office – if you can get away with it.

Another favorite of mine, which is essential for those overnight hiking trips, is the Kelty Red Cloud Back Pack. This backpack provides all the durability you would expect but at an affordable price. The backpack features a lightweight aluminum frame, a variety of easy access compartments, pockets and lash tabs to carry and attach all of your gear. Along with other camping essentials, I was also able to fit my Kelty sleeping bag, pillow and tent into this backpack.

Kelty Basecamp Kitchen
Kelty Basecamp Kitchen

Taking the family camping? You know how difficult it can be to comfortably cook for a group when you don’t have access to a table. The Kelty Basecamp Kitchen not only provides a table for preparing meals but a surface area to place your stove and a pantry to store your cooking utensils and food. The kitchen is foldable and stores inside a transport sack. I see why it won the 2008 Editors Choice Award by Camping Life Magazine.

Kelty Kitchen Sink
Kelty Kitchen Sink

I wanted to say that Kelty makes everything except the kitchen sink but in this case, they actually do! I haven’t personally used one yet but I think it would be a great product to take with me when camping with my family; it’s the Kelty Kitchen Sink. It features a compact basin with retractable drying racks to hold plates and other dishes while drying. Need a place to put some cold drinks? When not in use as a sink, it also works as a handy cooler. Fill it up with your favorite beverage and sit it right next to your Kelty Folding Chair for a relaxing evening.

I can go on and on but figured I would just highlight a few items. I invite you to check our website to see other products by Kelty. You’ll be surprised to see what they have to offer.


Colorado River Kayak Camping

I joined a local paddling group through to get in on some group paddling action. Shortly after I joined, a meetup was posted for a 2-day/1-night kayak camping trip on the Wilbarger Paddling Trail on the Colorado River in central Texas. This would not only be my first meetup, but also my first kayak camping trip so my fiancé and I eagerly signed up to go.

Gear Check
Kayaks, Paddles, PFDs – check
Sleeping bags and pads – check
Tent – check
Stove – check
Cookware – questionable

My favorite part of planning a trip is the gear check. Of course, we needed to choose some kayaks or canoe so we chose the Wilderness Systems Commander 140 and Tsunami 140 for the trip. Since we were camping and we needed plenty of storage space, we decided on the Commander for my fiancé, he would be the gear mule. The Colorado is a wide and slow moving river so I decided on the Tsunami 140. I figured it’s agility and speed would get me moving right along. As we were laying out our gear for the trip, we discovered that we desperately needed to upgrade our cookware (ok, maybe not desperately, but I needed a good excuse anyway). We snagged a few things that were on the top of the list like the GSI Bugaboo Backpacker Cook set and Kitchen 23 Piece Utensil Set to complete our camp kitchen. A quick run through of the rest of the gear showed everything else was in good condition. We did find that we were running short on dry bags, so I used a tip I got from one of the other paddlers I simply placed a trash bag in the stuff-sack that my tent came in, shoved my tent into it, rolled the top of the bag like you would a dray bag and finally tucked it all in.  It’s probably not ideal for most trips, but it worked pretty well for a one-nighter.

Meet Up
We rolled into the meet up location ready to meet some new folks and have a great trip. The weather was perfect, the water was flowing and the birds were chirping; right off the bat, we could tell it was going to be a great trip. After our initial meet and greet we headed to the drop in point to unload. Since we were doing our own portage, a couple of us stayed with the gear while the others took some of the vehicles to the take out point. Our organizer’s lovely wife shuttled everyone back to the drop in. I volunteered to be the caboose to make sure that no one got left behind or into trouble. We did one final check and headcount and we were off!

Zippity Do Da…
…my oh my, what a wonderful day. The river was calm and meandering, the sun was out with a slight breeze — it couldn’t have been a lovelier day. Early into the trip I discovered the importance of weight distribution and good posture. Since it was my first kayaking camping trip, I did a lot of research on packing a kayak, but practice makes perfect. When we stopped for lunch we did a little bit of gear shifting which helped alleviate some of the balance issues. I don’t have back problems but I don’t have very good posture, this had never been a problem until I was carrying about 30 lbs of extra gear in the kayak. In my slouched position, my back was on fire, but noticed that when I sat up straight it went away quickly — easy fix. I could just hear my mother’s voice saying, “I told you so!”

We covered about 8 river miles on the first day with just a little over half of that at a nice leisurely pace. I have to say the Tsunami performed perfectly (once I rearranged the weight)! There was plenty of storage and it glided like a dream so I was able to give my bad shoulder a rest every now and then without falling behind.

Yay! Camping!
We arrived at our river island camping destination and discovered that most of the prime real estate has already been taken by another paddling group. It wasn’t a huge surprise since the river and weather are ideal for paddling this time of the year. We found another suitable campsite on the other side of the island and quickly began setting up camp. We pitched our Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 tent and Lamina Sleeping Bags, laid out the Therm-A-Rest Trail Pros to let them self-inflate and pulled out our newly aquired camp pillows. Once all the tents were up, we started gathering enough wood to set a signal fire viewable from space. With the fire started and the sun setting, it was dinnertime! Recently I discovered a deep love for cooking and feeding people so I was really excited about putting my new cookware to the test. I had prepped all the veggies, couscous and salmon at home by putting them into separate baggies. Some other folks brought some shrimp and sausage so we ended up with a bit of a melting pot for dinner. It was a huge hit and we were all impressed that it all cooked in one pot. Cleanup was made easy with the camp sink that comes with the Bugaboo Backpacker and the utensil set that included a sponge and camp towel. The night was filled with fire, stars and of course, some adult beverages.

Once asleep, we were woken several times during the night by all sorts of critters. There was a pack of coyotes right across the river, a wild hog that was making it’s way by our camp and various other furry critters running through camp looking for leftovers. It sure was nice to be out of the city for a little while.

All Good Things Must Come to an End
The second day started out with sausage and eggs for breakfast. I tried out the new Starbucks Via Columbian Roast instant coffee that we now carry and was pleasantly surprised with a nice smooth cup of coffee. We packed up camp at a leisurely pace and then headed out. The rest of the trip was easy going with a couple small class 1 rapids and a quick stop to eat lunch and skip rocks. We made it to the take out point at Fisherman’s Park in Bastrop early afternoon with plenty of time to get home and unpack. It was a wonderful trip and I will look forward to going on another outing soon!


P.S. I’d like to give a shout out to all the folks who showed up (Frederick, Josh, Roger, Brian, Martin, Nenita, Craig and Nolan)!

Relax – The Hammock Way

Eno Kyle
Kyle relaxing in his Eno Hammock during a lunch break.

I’ve personally enjoyed the art of relaxing for pretty much all my life and discovered that one of best ways to fully appreciate this great pastime is with the help of a hammock. There is nothing like relaxing to the sounds of nature while enjoying the cool breeze in the great outdoors.

I particularly enjoy using hammocks like the one’s we carry by Eagles Nest Outfitters aka “ENO”. The main reason is that they are extremely compact and can be taken just about anywhere. With their packed size being smaller than that of a football, it makes it extremely easy to keep the hammock in your car, backpack, kayak/canoe, office, home…you get the point. As you can see in the photograph, I really do enjoy the portability of hammocks. Yep, that’s me taking it easy on my lunch break just outside our office.

Hammocks are great for camping, festivals, sporting events, fishing, hiking, biking and any other outdoor activity where you may need a quick rest or a good night’s sleep. In addition to their portability, they take less than 30 seconds to set up and put away. All you need to do is find a couple trees (or similar setup) that are about 10-15 feet apart, set the Slap Straps by looping them around the trunks. Once you’ve done this, simply take the carabiner end of the hammock and attach it to one of the six points on each Slap Strap — easy. After that, get in and good luck fighting consciousness as you’ll undoubtedly slip off into a warm dreamland filled with gumdrops and lollipops.

Protect yourself from the elements.

If you want to take your relaxation to a whole other dimension, check out the Kelty Camp and Luxury Camp Pillows. Their portability also provides a convenient anywhere/anytime use pillow. Whether you are traveling, camping or everything in between, Kelty Camp Pillows are the essence of convenient comfort. Couple these with the Single or Double Nest ENO hammocks and you’ve got yourself a  match made in heaven.

Share it with your dog!

Lastly, don’t let inclement weather deter you from breaking out the hammock and getting a snooze in. Consider an ENO Fast Fly Rain Tarp. This product compliments all ENO hammocks and can also be used independently to shade and protect you and your gear.


Commanding the Colorado

Prior to joining ACK, a group of friends were busy planning a 26-mile paddling/camping trip down the Colorado River in central Texas. I had already missed a week-long west Texas Pecos/Devil’s River trip so I made it a point to put this in one in my calendar with no intentions of deleting it. I was so excited about this trip that my wife actually gave me a free ticket to go despite the fact that it fell on our 11th anniversary weekend — high five.

Deciding on a Boat
Fast-forward to just a few weeks ago; I was trying to figure how I was going to get all of my gear into one of my sit on top kayaks. Most of the paddlers on this trip were taking canoes but I still preferred to use a kayak. Then it occurred to me that the best option would be a hybrid such as a Native Watercraft Ultimate 14 or a Wilderness Systems Commander 140. Because of their wide-open cockpit design, either would easily accommodate all of my gear while still providing an experience closer to my personal preferences. (Click here for a short article on hybrids I recently wrote.)

I Need Room
I’ve used the Native Watercraft Ultimate on many occasions so decided on the Commander this time and I didn’t regret it. From the moment that I set it down in my garage and started stuffing it with gear, I knew this one was going to be a hit. I was able to load it with a tent, sleeping bag, mattress pad, pillow, ice chest, camp chair, fishing rod, fishing gear, stove, food and drinks, 2 gallons of water, anchor, camera bag and clothing amongst many other camping related items and, as you can see in the picture to the right, it all fit! I must confess, one of the canoe paddlers was a chef (more on this later) and carried the camp food in his canoe, however, I could have easily fit a slightly taller ice chest to accommodate at least my own personal meals.

This Boat Better Not Tip
That’s a lot of stuff, I know — my thoughts too. At the time, I didn’t say anything to my friends but I must admit that I was a littler nervous at the launch point in Bastrop, Texas, when my boat was shoved into the water. I was concerned that it would sit too deep in the water but when I sat in the boat and took to the river — no problem. As with any kayak I paddle, my first reaction is to test its limitations. Of course, I should have done this without the gear but it was pretty secure and the clock was ticking. While sitting down, I pushed the boat side to side and not once did I feel like I was going to tip the boat. I also stood up and again, rock solid. I even cast a few jigs into the water and caught and released 3 small bass — yeah, not relevant but I had to throw that in somewhere. There was a consistent 8 inches of free-board all around the boat despite the cargo I was carrying (300-350lbs including myself). The Commander lists a carrying capacity of 475 lbs. Even though this was a flat-water stretch, it was comforting knowing that I probably wasn’t going to capsize this boat.

A Winding River With Long Straight Stretches
With mostly cloudy skies and a chance of severe thunderstorms in the forecast, we took off into the wild. Our first stretch was set for 16 miles. Good news is that aside from the occasional cooling shower, the storms stayed north of us and the overcast skies kept the temperatures mild. It’s not uncommon for us to experience 90-degree temperatures in this region in October. Anyway, back to the boat. It paddled straight…no really, like a freaking bullet straight. So straight that I would definitely consider one with a rudder to assist with steering the boat. I was truly impressed at the tracking capability of the Commander. I never, not once, felt like I had to correct my direction unless it was caused by intense headwinds which we had the pleasure of enjoying for a good 3-4 hours of the trip or the occasional small class 1 rapids.

This Wasn’t a Race
If you ready my previous article about “hybrids”, I mention that they are not speed demons. However, it simply performed much better than I had expected. I was able to keep up with the canoes, which were being powered by two paddlers. There was one paddler that was literally doing circles around us though — he was using a Wilderness Systems Tsunami. I did notice that the Commander would slow down rather quickly when I stopped paddling, I am not sure if this was due to the weight in the boat, headwinds or simply a characteristic of the Commander. Either way, we made it to camp by 5pm.

Long Trip + Bad Back = No Can Do
Comfort, ah, the holy grail of recreational kayaking. If you know me, you’ve probably heard me complain about my back. Long story short, I have a bulging disc, so comfort for me is key. Knowing that I would be sitting in a boat for 6+ hours, I knew that this boat would be perfect for me. Yeah, great seat but more importantly, dual sitting options. By simply sliding the seat under the molded in seat area, I was able to sit “on top” of the boat for a more natural sitting position. Further more, I occasionally stood up and paddled while standing to help stretch my legs. Yeah, I guess I was kind of showing off but nevertheless, it was fun.

A New Appreciation for the Colorado
While I have had the pleasure of paddling and fishing parts of the Colorado River, never have I experienced such a stretch. My favorite characteristic is that you see little to no signs of civilization. The river is lined with a few nicely manicured pastures, thick forests of oak, elms, sycamores and willows, sandstone cliffs and bluffs and a variety of wildlife. We even had a rare opportunity to see a couple of Bald Eagles. The water clarity was amazing with rock and sandy bottoms throughout.

The Perfect End to a Long Day of Paddling
After a long 16-mile stretch, we finally claimed our island for the night. It was a massive sand bar nestled between two small rapids with an open pasture peppered with oaks to one side and a thick old growth forest on the other. If you are not familiar with the Colorado River, most of it is privately owned so take great care when finding a camping spot. (Click here for more information) I was excited to setup my new Kelty Teton-2 Tent. This was the first time I was going to use it and from what I knew, I was supposed to be able to set it up in minutes. Sure enough, 5 minutes. It would have been less if I actually followed the instructions but either way it was quick. It’s a small backpacking tent but at 6’2”, I didn’t feel cramped.

My favorite part of any camping trip is cooking up a good meal. This time however, I didn’t have to cook a thing. One of the paddlers, a Chef, prepared an amazing dinner of grilled rib eye, homemade scalloped potatoes and salt and pepper buttered asparagus all cooked over an open wood fire. As the full moon eerily rose above the trees, we reminisced about our experiences throughout the day, enjoyed a few good laughs and eventually, one by one, made our way into the tents.

Slept Like a Champ
I like my pillow, so I needed something for this trip that I could easily compress into a small bag, which resulted in another new purchase, the Kelty Luxury Camp Pillow. It was a little flat at first,  but by simply stuffing some (clean) clothing into the rear pocket, it was perfect! I would have slept well into the morning but one of the guys woke up early and was walking around the campsite playing the dueling banjos theme song from the 1972 movie “Deliverance”.

And The Story Continues…
As I woke to the sweet sound of banjo music, we slowly packed our gear and once again paddled the river to Smithville, Texas where we took out.  This was a great trip and deciding to paddle the Wilderness Systems Commander 140 made it even better. Sure, it’s easy for me to rave about a product that we sell, so I invite you to give it a try for yourself. I know you’ll be pleased with its performance.

As for the route we covered, I highly recommend this stretch of the Colorado River for any paddler. Texas Parks and Wildlife together with community organizations have been doing great job of designated paddling trails. The Texas Paddling Trails is a program to develop public inland and coastal paddling trails throughout the state and support these trails with maps, signage and other information. These trails provide well-mapped accessible day trips in a variety of settings and for all levels of paddling experience.

Here are some additional photos of the trip.