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How to make more hiking or camping friends

Solo adventuring can be great—it’s easy to do exactly what you want right when you want to do it. And it’s a perfect time to dive into some introspection and contemplation. But there’s often no substitute for experiencing a new place with friends. Unfortunately, not everyone has a go-to travel partner, or an available crew … Read more

Camping? No, I’m just sleeping at a campsite

“I’m not camping, I’m just sleeping at a campsite,” I explained. They looked skeptical, trying to process what that sentence could possibly mean. To them, camping was itself a largely weekend endeavor: full of beer coolers and dutch ovens, carloads of friends, pine trees and hammocks. It was the central feature of the weekend—billed as … Read more

cooler coleman

How to make ice last longer in your cooler

Making ice last longer in a cooler requires a bit of pre-planning and following some best practices while you’re on the road. Here’s a simple guide for how to get the most out of your ice cooler. The basic underlying principle The basic concept behind making ice last as long as possible is this: limit … Read more

Campsite 12 at Kodachrome Basin State Park

Sometimes, you find yourself in a really great campsite. Last weekend was one of those instances.

While we often disperse camp on BLM or National Forest lands, we had decided to reserve campsites last weekend, given our rather aggressive itinerary. Kodachrome Basin State Park seemed like the natural first night’s stop, since we’d be driving Cottonwood Canyon north through the middle of famed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We selected site 12 from the available options, and it did not disappoint.

What makes a good campsite?

For me, there are a few things that I tend to prefer in campsites. Please note that I’m referring to developed campgrounds here—not dispersed or backcountry sites, which I’d evaluate using much different criteria.

First, I prefer small to medium-sized campgrounds, usually between about 15-40 sites. Larger campgrounds tend to have very small sites that feel nearly on top of each other, and tend to be more crowded to begin with (hence, their large capacity). Extremely small ones often lack useful amenities, like flush toilets and sinks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine using vault toilets and otherwise roughing it. But if I’m paying $15-30 for a place to sleep for the night, I expect a few additional conveniences. It’s often nice to have showers too, especially if you’ve been outside all day. I tend to sleep better when I feel clean. I don’t rely on firewood being available for purchase at the campground, but it’s always nice to have as a backup or supplemental option.

While campgrounds can sometimes be a fun social experience, I usually prefer more privacy. So I look for sites along the outer loops and especially those that have a visual barrier between my site and neighboring ones. Shade can be an important factor too, especially here in the desert southwest, so some tree cover or a shade structure is often appreciated.

I usually don’t care much about distance to the restrooms or water spigots; neither is usually too far way to cause much hassle. However, the inverse isn’t true—proximity to the restrooms or water can mean a constant stream of visitors passing by your tent. Worse, occasional whiffs of an overly ripe vault toilet can really ruin the camping mood.

If you’re tenting it as I often am, a flat tent pad that’s not too rocky is key. After that, it’s all bonus. Being a westerner, I have a relatively high expectation that really good campsites should offer some sort of expansive or scenic views, too. Proximity to streams or lakes is usually nice as well, though sometimes that means more bugs or higher winds.

Evaluating campsite 12 at Basin Campground

On par, campsite 12 was nearly perfect for our needs last weekend. The campground is the perfect size, and offered just the right amenities. The restrooms were clean and modern, and the shower stalls were spacious. While there wasn’t any way to adjust the shower temperature, it was exactly the right temp for me. In addition, a sink for washing dishes and a self-serve supply of firewood—a handy to carry bundle for just $5, with proceeds benefitting the Boy Scouts—were appreciated conveniences.

The site is well isolated from neighbors with its own mini loop, making it feel like you were alone. Due to the configuration of the campsites, all RVs were on the other side of the campground. Best of all, it was at the far end of the campground near the head of the basin, making for some excellent panoramic views. We’ll be back the next time we find ourselves looking for a campground in the area.

If you go

There are multiple campgrounds atat Kodachrome Basin State Park, but the one you’re looking for is the largest one, Basin Campground. Campsites are $20 per night, plus an $8 registration fee. Check availability on site 12; if it’s already taken, there seemed to be several other sites that looked like quality backup choices. Not all sites are reservable online, so you might be able to snag one on a first come, first served basis, too.

Five ways to keep cool while hiking in the desert

One of the keys to desert hiking is staying cool. The most obvious way to do this is to limit your desert hiking to the cooler months. But for some places, there aren’t exactly many “cooler months” to begin with. As someone who has spent my own fair share of adventures in the triple-digit heat … Read more

The secret about National Park visitor center restrooms

If you’ve been to quite a few National Park units—especially the ones that don’t close at night—you may have noticed something odd about the layout of their visitor centers. In nearly all of them, the public restrooms are located on the exterior of the building, as opposed to down an interior hallway inside the visitor center. There are exceptions to … Read more

The single best way to save money on travel

Travel can be very expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s one simple way to save money on your trips: Camp. Yep, not an earth-shattering secret, I know. But it’s still a powerful way to travel. Not only does it allow you to experience the local environment in a more intimate way, but it allows … Read more

A short guide to park passes

When someone hears about my national park quest, they often ask me if I’ve visited a particular place that they have enjoyed. As often as not, the location they mention is not part of the National Park System. That’s not particularly surprising. There are a wide variety of land management agencies at the national, state, … Read more