It Takes One Tent to Rule Them All

In this article, we’ll look at three tents. One is being reviewed upon request. The second is my personal tent that I use for camping excursions. The third is a piece of gear that is bringing some hype to camping/backpacking forums.

1. Bushnell Roam Series 8.5′ x 3′ Backpacking Tent

I surfed the Backpackers Basecamp forum and could not find any opinions on this tent. My outdoors comrades did not have any information as well. There is this helpful video, however:

Reviewers on various sites stated that this product is very durable and is a pretty good size. The poles are aluminum, and the seams are taped. The larger pole is sleeved while the smaller foot-end pole is clipped. A backpacker in Alaska reported that this tent was able to withstand 40-50 mph winds and rain.

The price, $62.35 is pretty great if you ask me. The tent, weighing 3.6 pounds, comes with a nice interior design equipped with gear pockets.

Pros: Cool gear pockets on the interior, reported durability, affordable.

Cons: Lack of reviews within the backpacking community, requires staking and some time to set up (not freestanding).

Best used for: light to moderate backpacking excursions.

2. Embark 7.5′ x 4.5′ 2 Person Dome Tent

I’ve brought this bad boy to Havasupai, Prescott (Arizona), West Clear Creek (Arizona), and pretty much every other camping excursion within the past three years. It takes about 5 minutes to set up, and I’ve had no problem with the fiberglass poles or the base material (I will also note: I’ve never had to use a ground tarp).

I did have one of the cords on the rain fly come apart. I was able to fix this with some knotting and a carabiner.

Personally, I’m going to hold onto this tent for as long as I can. I don’t see any sense in spending a lot of money for another tent (unless going on a really long backpacking trip). It is heavy, however, weighing 6.1 pounds.

Pros: Extremely durable, comfortable, easy to set up, waterproof.

Cons: Heavy, the rain fly cording could use improvement.

Best used for: Car camping, though I’ve used this for 20-mile backpacking trips.

3. Big Agnes – Happy Hooligan UL Tent, 2 Person

If you have cash to blow, then the Happy Hooligan is the way to go. The fly and floor are silicone-treated nylon ripstop fabric. The waterproof polyurethane coating on the rainfly is a great way to stay dry in the elements. The Happy Hooligan features DAC aluminum poles, making the weight a little heavier but the aluminum stronger.

This tent is a two-door with plenty of mesh to keep the bugs out. It’s also marketed towards stargazers.

The tent weight totals out to be 3 lbs, 9 oz. This is on the heavy side for people who take ultralight seriously.

Overall, this tent is top-notch quality, but debatably over-priced (it costs upward to $380).

A side note, Big Agnes’ Blacktail 3 was selected by as the best tent for car camping and occasional backpacking.

Pros: Reported as extremely comfortable, top-of-the-line material, waterproof, two-door.

Cons: Very pricey, almost 4 lbs.

Best used for: light backpacking; car camping.

Check out the #HMPYG article on putting camping hacks to the test.

Getting Good Camping Deals

Shopping for camping gear can be tricky. Let’s say you go to REI, and get a really good price on a stove. Walk over to another section, and you’ll probably be overpaying for synthetic blend shirts. The same goes for places like Target, Cabela’s, and other department stores. That’s why I like to shop online. You can pick and choose from various retailers without sacrificing value. See below for some basic recommendations, strategies, and tips…

HMPYG-recommended deal:, as we know, is a classic site. It’s where I bought my Klymit Static V Lightweight Sleeping Pad. I use this pad on every camping and backpacking excursion I go on. Amazon has it listed for $54.95, which is pretty damn good. It’s very portable, takes about 7 big breaths to fill, and quite comfortable. I’m a side-sleeper, and many people I’ve talked to recommend it for this kind of sleep.

For shades:

One store that is ridiculously awesome for sunglasses is Sunglass Warehouse. There is a huge selection Captureof cheap but stylish shades. You definitely don’t want to risk losing those $250 Raybans on your next outdoor excursion. I personally never buy sunglasses for more than $40. These glasses look good and feel good for the price.


NEW $-SAVING UPDATE: All of our readers get 20% off sitewide with the code HMPYG20. You’re welcome 😉

Be smart.

Another great way to get good deals is to use your smartphone scanner while at the storeCapture (you can search for “QR Scanner” in the app store). If you find a better price, show it to the sales manager. They’ll tell you they’ll match it or apologize. If they do not match it, just make sure to bookmark that link and save it for later.

Grab a Sunday paper.

The other day, someone at my workplace stated that “only grandpas read newspapers!” Yeah, well, this grandpa is gettin’ deals. I saw a camping chair advertised for $6 last Sunday. This was after I had visited five different stores a few weeks ago trying to find a cheap chair. With tons of advertised specials and coupons, it’s worth dropping a few dollars for the Sunday print.  It’s also nice to give your eyes a break from electronic screens and lights. And who knows, maybe you’ll find one of my articles in the New York Times someday.

Plan ahead.

Finally, make sure you’re planning and giving yourself as much time as possible. I’ve paid more than I should have plenty of times because I simply didn’t give myself enough preparation. This leads to pressured and impulsive buys. Pick up winter gear on the offseason. Shop online and give yourself a few weeks to receive shipped items. Pay attention to the deals people are telling you about. Stop and breathe. No life is savored when you’re in a hurry.


Never heard of back-pooching before? Me neither, until I came across this video:

Meet Penni

Penni is a dog that was rescued from a tweaker pad outside of NYC. Her rescuer, Blaine, speaks about her with great passion:

…to see how she just comes to life when we’re outside, she’s the kind of dog that will turn a cat person into a dog person. There’s not one person that meets her that doesn’t just fall in love with her.

The video above takes place in the Lake Powell area (Utah-Arizona border). When I saw it, there were many questions. How the hell did he get his dog to latch onto his back like that? Where else has this doggy been? Who is this pooch?

It turns out Penni Dog has her own Instagram, which can be found under the handle @pennidog. The photos are stunning. She’s been to snow-capped mountains in Zion National Park. She’s been to the Grand Canyon. Moapa, Nevada. Valley of Fire. Some of the most majestic locations in the Southwest.

Blaine was gracious enough to take the time for an interview. Here’s more on Penni, her life, her story:

Steve/HMPYG: It says on Instagram that Penni was locked in a basement for a year and that you rescued her, right?

Blaine: Yeah, so I was living about thirty minutes outside of New York City at the time and I was looking for a dog for six months. I think I was rejected by four different rescue groups, them not thinking I’d be a good dog owner because I work in an office job. Basically I wasn’t an unemployed millionaire entrepreneur or something, that’s what they were looking for, but, luckily came across her. The story I got was she was locked in the basement of a drug house for the start of her life. I’m not really sure how old she is, it said something like between a year and two years when I got her. She was thrown out of the drug house, picked up by some cops, the cops took her with two other dogs to the pound. They were next in line to be euthanized that day. I’ve stayed in touch with the rescue group, I send them pictures all the time.

Steve/HMPYG: That’s awesome.

Blaine: They said I’d be a good owner, and then, “trust me, you’re going to love her as soon as you meet her.” She was a mess when I got her. She was a huge mess. Between all the physical abuse and then the stress of everything else, she was in awful shape when I got her. I never seen a dog more terrified of everything in my life.

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah I had an abused dog too, and she spent twenty hours a day underneath the bed.

Blaine: That definitely sounds familiar. There was probably six months before I could really make eye contact with her. I just started from day one, just walks every day, and you know, she had sheer panic with every single noise that she heard. She started becoming more trusting of the world. I’d say at two years, everything was manageable I guess. It wasn’t as nearly as stressful owning her and trying to get her to feel normal. I’ve had her a little over three years now at this point. I’d say we’re as close as we’re going to get to rehabilitation. She definitely has strange quirks, particularly when we’re indoors. That previous traumatization is still kind of lingering, but anytime we get outside she just kind of flips a switch. She’s an entirely different dog when she’s outside.

Steve/HMPYG: That makes her around four years old now?

Blaine: Somewhere between four and five, I’m not really sure. I gave her a birthday of fourth of July. I’m saying she’ll turn five on the fourth of July.

Steve/HMPYG: Where do you guys live now? Henderson?

Blaine: Yeah, so, it’s right outside Las Vegas. I got transferred here for work about two and a half years ago, still working for the same company, still doing your standard Monday through Friday. The geography here is just amazing, it’s been the absolute favorite place I’ve ever lived in my life. It’s pretty much every weekend we’re going out somewhere doing something.

Steve/HMPYG: Same. I moved to Phoenix from NY and I have a rescue too. I take him out whenever I can. Where does that video clip take place? Bryce Canyon?

Blaine: No, that was actually a little slot canyon off the side of Lake Powell.

Steve/HMPYG: Oh really?

Blaine: Yeah, we were there last week. A pretty tough-to-get-to spot off of Lake Powell. It’s funny, I didn’t even know anybody was taking video of me, I just kind of had my head down. We stopped on the way to Reflection Canyon. I couldn’t even tell you the name of it though.

Steve/HMPYG: Does she just naturally latch onto your back or did you train her to do that?

Blaine: The very first time it ever happened, it was just after work one day, we just went off to a little scramble up a little mountain outside of Las Vegas. When we got to the very top of this mountain, she cut a pad on one of her front paws wide open. She was just walking so gingerly I winded up just throwing her on my back that day. I think she was like well, I can walk in pain or I can just do this. (laughs) I had her on my back for a better part of three hours before we got back to the truck.

Steve/HMPYG: Oh wow.

Blaine: And ever since then she’s had no problem with that. Every time I throw her on my back she sits perfectly still, doesn’t fight it. She seems pretty relaxed with it.

Steve/HMPYG: Some people might see that and they would say that’s reckless. I think people freak out when they see stuff like that. What would you say to that?

Blaine: It’s not like all this just happened overnight. What I love about taking videos of her is that you can watch her jumping up and down ledges and stuff and seeing how much she enjoys it. The people that see her inside versus outside, knowing the history she’s had, knowing how truly depressed she was before I got her… just the intake papers from the pound where they did the initial assessment on her, it’s the most depressing description of a dog you’ve ever seen in your life. So to see how she just comes to life when we’re outside, she’s the kind of dog that will turn a cat person into a dog person. There’s not one person that meets her that doesn’t just fall in love with her. And it all just comes down to her attitude when we’re going out doing stuff like that.

Steve/HMPYG: What’s the best thing you’ve ever done with her?

Blaine: That’s a tough one…

Steve/HMPYG: I saw you took her to Havasupai, that must have been cool.

Blaine: Havasu was probably some of the most exciting photos. We did probably 35 or 40 miles the three days we were there. She was right by my side the whole time. People get a huge kick out of seeing us go up and down ladders. She’s perfectly comfortable with that. All those photos of her around Havasu Falls/Mooney Falls, one friend after another says, “You belong in travel magazines.”

Steve/HMPYG: Yeah I saw someone [on Facebook] say that and it’s very true. I see that she likes yoga mats. (laughs)

Blaine: Every one I’ve owned fell victim to her, and it’s weird because she doesn’t destroy anything. Since I’ve had her there’s only been two or three things she’s gotten into besides that. For whatever reason, she’s got some special taste buds for the yoga mats.

Steve/HMPYG: You have any words for pit bull haters?

Blaine: I get it…I get it because there’s this social stigma associated with them, there are laws being enacted all over the world that outlaw them. It’s no different than a person. You put a person in the wrong environment, they’re gonna turn out the wrong way. If you want to raise a dog to be like that, raise a dog to be an ugly dog, that’s exactly what you’re gonna get.

Steve/HMPYG: I totally agree. Thank you so much!


The Way a Dog Can Shape Our Cosmos

What is beautiful about Blaine and Penni’s story is the embodiment of small impact. Blaine made the choice to rescue a dog. She went from being close to death to a lifetime of experiences that we all probably envy. Blaine gave her a piggyback ride out of necessity one day, and now she takes to his shoulders like a squirrel monkey. These small things are vastly inspirational. Seeing Penni in Zion might make a procrastinator somewhere stop delaying, and start to take action. She may (hopefully) change some minds about pit bull breeds. Whatever the impact may be, getting to know this story has been a true privilege.

A Final Suggestion

Check out this pet bed from

Furhaven Orthopedic Mattress Pet Bed




Photo Credit: Nick Wrzesinski Instagram: @nick_wrz

“Camping Hacks” Tested by an Actual Camper

A Review of Camping Hacks

This BuzzFeed article, “41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius,” has received a lot of buzz. The article has various tips and tricks to use on your next camping trip. The author, Peggy Wang, is a great media marketer. However, with “shopping and bubblegum” as her main interests, I’m not sure how much time she spends outdoors.

I want to salute her for putting that together. I also want to provide a little insight on what’s useful vs. what’s impractical. Here are popular camping “hacks” that we’ve tested in the actual wilderness.

1.    Using tic-tac containers as a spice holder.

(chipotle powder/paprika/oregano/garlic /sea salt)

This one works out if you eat tic-tacs a lot. I don’t. I found myself buying a pack for $1.39, eating way more tic-tacs than I wanted to, and filling it with $.70 worth of spices. For this “hack,” just use a ziploc baggie, a tiny tupperware container, a used salt shaker, a dime bag, one of those tubes that glasses repair kits come in, or any of the countless other things that can hold small quantities. If you do have empty tic-tac containers lying around, go ahead and use them.

2.    Twist-tying coffee in filters to make a portable “coffee bag.”

This is a very cool idea. You simply put a few scoops of coffee in a paper filter, twist it up, and use a twist-tie to seal. Then, you soak it in hot water as you would a tea bag. This is nice if you have room for a container to seal them in. It’s good to have good coffee in the backwoods. If you’re backpacking and going micro, however, stick with the instant coffee self-serve packs. The taste is pretty bland, but it saves a lot of room in your pack.

3.    Using play foams pads to create a comfortable floor for your tent.


This “hack” is totally impractical. I’d rather save trunk/pack space with a portable camping mattress or compact sleeping pad. You don’t even spend that much time in your tent anyway.  Skip the foam pads, invest in a sleeping pad.

4.    Using a vegetable peeler to make single-use soap shards.


I’d advise against this, for ecology’s sake. Most soaps that we use are toxic to freshwater. Liquid biodegradable soap is not that expensive, and comes in a portable container. It’s also concentrated (usually), so you get a lot of use out of it. Do the fish a favor and skip this hack.

5.    Bringing microfiber towels


Yes. They’re fast-drying, ultra-lightweight, and can be found at the dollar store. The only drawback is that they’re very uncomfortable if you have rough patches of skin. Other than that, very practical.

6.    Using dirt to clean out cookware, plates, bowls.

This is a great one. Dirt is phenomenal at scrubbing cookware and eating-ware. Try rubing some sand and water around the pot, rinsing it, then using the biodegradable soap to sanitize

   *      *      *

EZContacts For Brand Name Sun Glasses

Original #HMPYG hacks:

Now, here are some real and original tips from our staff!

    1.    Prepare oatmeal and pack in a virtually vacuum-sealed ziploc.


I do this about every time I go camping or backpacking. Oatmeal is dry, nonperishable, really good for you, and warming in the morning. For the spices/sugar, I usually use:

  • a few dashes of cinnamon
  • a tiny dash of nutmeg
  • a generous helping of brown sugar

Mix it in a bag with a good portion of 1-minute oats. Stick a straw in the ziploc, zip up to the straw, and suck all the air out. (Be careful to not inhale cinnamon straight into your lungs.) Then close it up, and make sure it’s not by any objects than can puncture it.

2.    Pack a can of Stillhouse moonshine whiskey.


Before one of my trips I was looking around for some booze that would be easy to pack. This immediately caught my eye. It comes in a metallic can that looks like a fuel canister. Expecting the product to taste like butane, it was actually incredibly smooth. You can pass it around with the homeboys, and then reuse the can for some much-needed spring water afterwards.

(Note: this article isn’t sponsored by Stillhouse, but totally should be).

3. For colder temperatures, stick a hand warmer in your sleeping bag.

From my experience, sleeping bag temperature ratings are pretty off-the-mark. For example, 30°F (0°C) bags usually leave you shivering in the 30-40°F (0-5°C) range. Adding the hand warmer is good for a little heating component. (Additional tip: if it’s too hot on your skin, put it in a sock.)

4. When traveling in a large party, bring a set of uniform bandanas.


Pick a brightly-colored bandana, and buy a set. This is a great way to signal others in your tribe. The bandana itself has many different uses. Protect your mouth/nose when hiking through dusty areas, wipe your sweat, use as a small tourniquet, soak it to cool your forehead, and so forth. But in a large group, this is a way to signal others where you are, signal for help, or just have some squad steez.

Use these tips and have a great trip!!!

Please use caution when you’re out camping. Don’t get drunk on Stillhouse and light your tent on fire while trying to wash cups of oatmeal with hot dirt coals. If these tips have been helpful, help fill our tip cup!