Bikes are easy to resell, hard to identify and they are their own getaway vehicle, so it is not hard to see why an immense amount of bikes are stolen each year. It is hard to get a firm number but it is estimated somewhere between 750k and 2 million bikes are stolen in the United States alone.
With some very simple steps, you can help make sure your bike is not stolen and if so make sure you are part of the 5% of people that end up getting their bike back.
Document Your Bike
According to BicycleLaw.com, around 50% of stolen bikes are recovered by police but only 5% are ever returned back to the owners. It is important that if you report your bike stolen that you have the information needed to make sure you are part of that 5%.
Every bike will have a serial number on several places. Make sure to record this number the day you purchase your bike. Store this number with your other documents such as receipt/invoice and pictures of your bike. The serial number is your only 100% method of uniquely identifying your bike, spend the 30 seconds to write it down. If you are lazy like I am simply take pictures of the serial number and bike and store that in a folder on your computer and phone.
Register Your Bike
At the very least make sure you register your bike with a nationwide registry. You can also register the bike with the company you bought it from and a lot of cities now a days are getting their own local registry.
Home Owner / Renter’s Insurance
Make sure to add your bike to your home owner or renter’s insurance policy. If you do not get your bike back, at least you can get yourself a new one. This kind of coverage comes standard with most policies, you just have to remember to add it to the policy.
Personalize Your Bike
Personalizing your bike to help it from being stolen has a number of benefits. Similar to having security lights on your house to have thieves rob your neighbors house instead of yours, having a unique looking bike will help do the same.
Making your bike easy to identify will speed things up if you need to look for it. Nobody wants to be the guy that falsely accuses the dude on Craigslist of being a bike thief and be wrong.
Easiest method is going to be stickers. Like to drink or travel? Get yourself some stickers and start slapping those on your bike. If you want the stickers to hold up, wash the area first and then hit it with a layer of poly. Those things will last forever and like putting a bunch of bumper stickers on your car, they will for sure be noticed.
Paint is also a good choice, but that can make it look more gaudy sometimes. If you have a generic looking bike though, a little bit of color never hurt anybody.
Lock Your Bike up Correctly
This not only involved locking your bike up in a way that makes it hard to steal but also always making sure you lock up your bike. Most bikes end up being stolen even though they were left unattended “only for a minute”. It only takes seconds to take your bike, lock it up if that bike will not be in your possession.
Get The Right Lock
If you want to actually deter a thief from taking your bike, there are really only two lock types for you to consider.
Heavy duty U-Lock
Heavy duty chain and lock combination
You are welcome to use a cable lock or a light duty chain but know that these are really only for show and can be cut in seconds. A cable lock is useful in making it slightly more difficult if you use it with a u-lock as your primary lock. If you are in a high risk area I would suggest getting both a u-lock and a chain + lock combination. Using both will usually encourage a bike thief to move on to easier steal bikes.
Proper Locking Technique
Now that you have the right lock it is important to know how to use it. We have all walked by and seen a bike where the only thing left is the front wheel that is still locked to the bike rack but everything else is gone.
When locking your bike up, you want to look for something unmovable that you can easily get your locks around. A bike rack is the obvious choice as long as it is securely bolted to the ground. Failing to find a bike rack you want something that is attached to cement or that can not be easily dismantled or cut. Thieves have been known to remove the sign from a traffic pole and slide the whole bike up and over the pole. Similar issue with small trees or wooden structures, if they already have a hack saw to cut through a lock, its nothing to just use that hack saw to cut through a small tree.
Pick a well lit area for locking up your bike with a decent amount of walk by traffic.
When locking your bike, try to leave as little extra room as possible between your lock and what you are locking too. You do not want to give them leverage to easily get their cutters into your lock.
One of the features of most bikes is the ability to easily remove the wheels off of a bike. This is really nice in a lot of circumstances but really not that great if you would like your wheels to not be stolen off of your bike. If you are in a high risk area I would suggest switching out your quick release on your wheels with locking skewers instead.
This post is for those of us who rode bikes as a kid, life got in the way and now as an adult are looking at getting back into it. Several years ago I bought my first “real” bike and this post pretty much sums up the research I did and the experience I had. It has now been several years and I own a couple bikes for various reasons, so hopefully this helps you in what choices you have and the options out there.
Types of Bikes
There are lots of choices in bike styles, I am listing in order of appropriateness for a first bike. Read through the list though, this will change depending on what your reasons are for buying a bike.
This video does an excellent job of summing up everything I am about to go over.
This is by far my favorite choice for a first bike. A hybrid is a cross between a mountain and a road bike. It will not be as fast as a road bike nor as rugged as a mountain bike but will easily allow you to get a feel for either one. I actually have 3 different tread types for my hybrid that allow me to go between mountain, road and true hybrid depending on what I will be doing for that week.
I have taken my hybrid mountain biking in the trails near Asheville and then used the same bike for a pub crawl the same day. I would be hesitant to use it for the advanced trails, but I had no problem in dipping my feet into the intermediate ones.
A road bike is designed to be light weight and fast. You will sacrifice a good bit of comfort and versatility for speed though. These are meant to only be used on pavement and you will likely not even have the option to put on thicker tires so it can handle a little off-roading. Tires will be narrower and handlebars will be much lower forcing you into a more aerodynamic position.
These bikes are ideal for commuting and exercise provided you have decent bike lanes or trails near you. These bikes can be damaged by large bumps or just rough terrain.
There is a nice rail-to-trail near me with an uninterrupted 15 mile length providing an easy 30 mile round trip where I do not have to deal with cars (though sometimes snakes). 30 miles will burn off 1500 – 2500 calories in 1.5 to 3 hours and is an amazing way to begin a weekend.
Mountain bikes are designed to take the bumps and bruises of hurtling yourself down a mountain without killing the rider. In the last couple of decades most mountain bikes will have a full suspension that increases stability and traction as well as lessening the jarring on the rider. Tread on these will usually be very knobbly for traction.
If you plan on using your mountain bike for pavement riding for an extended period of time it is worth buying a new set of tread for this use. My girlfriend switches her mountain bike over to road tires in between trail riding so she gets some additional speed out of it. A lot of higher end mountain bikes will be almost as light as low end road bike, so it does not make a bad choice for an overall use bike if you are willing to switch your tires around.
A cruiser is the last on my list since it tends to be the least versatile, mainly because off-roading or mountain biking is out of the question and you will tend to tail all your friends if you ride in a group. One advantage of a cruiser over the other types is that this is the best bike for actually riding your bike on the sand at the beach. If you plan on simply cruising, this is the bike for you.
Cruisers tend to be one speed with a big comfy seat and wide tires. Common accessories are a basket and a cup holder.
There are some other types of bikes out there but I either do not have experience with them or I would not suggest them for a first bike. Listing them off so you will have some familiarity with what they are and what is out there.
These bikes are made for being useful for transporting loads and general commuting. These bikes will often have a rack, basket or even a trailer for carrying loads and will be focused on durability and comfort.
A juvenile is basically a kids bike. This site is based around buying your first permanent bike (as a kid, you need to buy a new bike every couple of years). If you are looking for a juvenile bike, I found this site to be extremely useful.
This type allows people to bike in a reclining / chair position. Perfect for people with back problems. Some versions have hand pedaling and allows someone bound to a wheel chair to also get out and bike.
Allow 2+ riders on the same bike. You mostly see this type of bike in montages during a rom-com.
This bike is equipped with an electric motor to “assist” the rider. Some versions will only kick in during hills or as the rider starts tiring out. Good if you need some assistance but still want to bike.
Buying a Bike
For a quality first bike that will last you forever, expect to spend between $200-$750.
For deciding on what bike to get, it is helpful to know why you are buying a bike. Exercise, commuting or just for fun? Luckily you do not have to just pick one category, but if there is a main reason, you can easily pick a bike geared towards this goal.
Biking is a great workout, comparable to running / jogging in calories burned per hour without all the impact. When I first started out my journey to a healthier lifestyle, biking is where I started. After losing a bit of weight I started up on running (eventually working up to marathons) but even today, biking is my fun exercise while running just being something I need to do.
Which Type For Exercise?
The short answer is really any bike that will get you outside. For the long answer, it depends on what you like doing and the options available in your city. My favorite choice is going with a hybrid since it gives you the most options on using your bike.
Calories Burned Per Hour
As a rule of thumb, it will take right around 3500 calories burned to drop a pound. Everyone is different and weight dropped will not purely be fat, so take this as just a general ball park figure in what you need to do to hit whatever weight loss goal you have in mind.
Take the average of the two numbers if your weight falls between one of the ranges. Since I have actually hit my weight loss goals over the last two years (down 60lbs!) I actually just use this chart to figure out if I can indeed get the milkshake from the local ice creamery.
Interesting enough, based on these calculations, if you want to maintain the same calorie burn for your workout, for every 50 lbs you lose you only need to go 2mph faster per hour. If you have limited amounts of time for your workout, faster is better.
Transportation / Commuting
Some cities aren’t very conducive to it, but more and more cities are becoming bike friendly. Using your bike as your sole transportation is only possible in some areas but more and more a simple ride up to the store, movies or even to work is now possible.
Want to do your part for the environment? One estimate is that manufacturing a bike produces about a ton of carbon for every $1000 for bike cost. A $265 bike will need to be ridden for about 400 miles before it offsets the amount of carbon that driving the same distance would have taken up. After that, biking will be about 10 times better versus driving, but it is hard to calculate. This slate article has some more details if you wanted to go more in depth.
Which Type For Commuting?
If you plan on strictly using your bike for commuting your best choice is going to be a road bike. If you want the option to do a little off-roading then go with a hybrid.
Any time you get to travel outside on a bike and feel the wind on your body while using your own power to move yourself around, you are going to have fun. That said, there are a lot of options for variety in your bike ride aside from simply going from point A to point B.
Which Type For Fun?
Depends on what you like to do for fun. If you want to just go fast and have a lot of open bike lanes or paved trails, go with a road bike. If you live near the beach or a similar area where you can bike around slowly and take in the sites, pick a cruiser. Got some mountains and love hurtling down hills, snag yourself a mountain bike.
What To Look For When Getting a Bike
Will I need to ride in rain / snow?
How comfortable is the bike for short or long rides?
Will I need to deal with hills/bridges or will most of my riding be flat?
Am I planning on carrying stuff and if so, how big?
How fast do I need to go?
Some bikes come with a wide variety of gearing and some such as a cruiser or a fixed-gear bicycle will only have one. Multiple gears allow you to go up and down hills easily as well as change the resistance on your bike as you get tired over a long ride.
If you live in a relatively flat area, a fixed-gear (single speed) is fine and will greatly reduce the cost and maintenance of your bike.
Listing out frame material in order of cost. Steel and Aluminium is where I would go for my first bike. Save the carbon and titanium for your second bike.
Steel is your basic entry level frame material. Strong but heavy. These bikes can take a beating and one of the few frames that can be bent back into shape after an accident. Rust prone so the steel will usually have chrome in it for rust resistance.
Slightly more expensive than steel but a much better strength to weight ratio. Rust is not a worry so make sure you go with this if you live near the beach. I once had a steel cruiser that completely fell apart within a year of being kept outside at my beach apartment.
Very expensive but the best strength to weight you will get for a metal frame. Also sounds much cooler when you are explaining to your friends why you spent several grand to shave off a couple pounds of weight from your bike. If you hate money, go with this for your first bike.
Light, strong and expensive. If you want a super fast road bike, this is what you go with. Expect to be paying around 3k as well. The interesting thing on using carbon fiber vs metal is that it can be built in a way to allow flexing of the frame in one direction only.
Tires are what make the bike. A road bike will have very skinny, high pressure tires. These are less weight and resistance so you can go faster. The trade off is less traction and grip.The opposite end of this will be mountain bike tires. These will be thick and knobbly. High resistance for traction and grip. In between these two will be hybrid tires which will be smooth in the middle and knobbly on the sides, a trade off between the two.
A suspension will smooth out the rough surfaces and provide more comfort and stability at the cost of weigh and expense. Suspension is most common in mountain bikes but is also seen in hybrids as well as some cruisers.
If a bike has front suspension only (common in hybrids) it is a hardtail. If it has both front and rear suspension (common in mountain bikes) it has a full suspension. If it has neither front or rear suspension (common in road bikes) it is a rigid.
Handlebars perform the basic function of allowing you to hold on to and steer your bike. For this simple function there are a lot of variety in shape and overall it falls under personal preference. The curved shape found on a road bike allows multiple different hand positions.
Most Common Handlebars
Flat bars are what you will typically find on a mountain bike, hybrid and some fixed-gear bikes. As you would expect this handlebar is an almost flat tube, commonly with a slight bend inward. These bars have a lot of space on them to easily attach accessories such as lights, computers and bells.
Drop bars are typically what you will find on a road bike and will have a whole subcategory of shapes associated with them. These bars are flat where they connect to the bike with a dropped, curved end. The bars have multiple angles for a variety of hand positions as well as allowing you to get into much more aerodynamic positions.
Cruiser handlebars are long and slope inward towards the rider. This allows you to sit upright and steer.
Another word for your bike seat. There are going to be basically two different versions of this, a racing saddle (small, thin and will hurt your butt until you get used to it) and a comfort saddle. I would suggest unless you are buying a cruiser to go with the racing saddle. It will take a little getting used to but they end up being better in the long run.
A wide, soft saddle appears to be the most comfortable but a saddle is designed to hold your weight and keep you positioned on the bike. Just like an overly soft mattress is not the best for your back, neither is an ultra soft saddle.
The grip is the covering for the shape of the handlebar you chose. These come in soft or firm plastic, gel, foam and leather. In general, whatever your bike comes with will be just fine.
Try Out Different Bikes
Who doesn’t have a friend with a bike? Find a friend with a hybrid, road, mountain or cruiser and see if they will let you borrow it for a couple of days. If they have extra, bikes see if you can do some group rides. Try out the bike in different conditions, play around with the gearing, handling and finally judge the overall enjoyment.
The most accurate way to get fit for a bike is to go in store to a bike shop that has access to an adjustable bike fit machine. This is basically a fake bike that allows them to move all the sizes back and forth to find what sizes you need for a perfect fit. Most stores will not charge for this and count this simply as an expense in getting your business. If you end up buying your bike somewhere else try and return the favor by buying some accessories at this store.
If a store does not have an adjustable bike fit machine they can still try you out on different bikes in the store to get a correct sizing for you, it will just take a little longer. Once you find a bike that fits you in the store, look at the size on the frame to get a general idea of other sized bikes that will also work for you. Mountain bikes and hybrids are likely measured in inches while road bikes will be measures in centimeters.
Be very picky on getting a bike that fits you. Riding around for a long term on an improperly fit bike is a sure fire recipe for back and knee pain as well as just a bike that is not fun to ride.
Make sure that your knees only have a slight bend in them at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Think 99% fully extended / slight bend in your knees. This should alleviate most knee pain experienced on a long ride.
Your arms should be slightly bent when gripping your handlebars. This will allow some shock absorption and help with muscle ache / stresses. Your weight should be balanced between the seat and handlebars. If you find your hands going numb on a long ride, this could be because you are putting too much off your body weight onto your handlebars. This can usually be fixed by raising them up or your seat down.
This is an EXTREMELY rough guideline. Like trying on clothes, every bike is going to be a little bit different and each manufacture is going to do their sizes a little bit different. For an excellent break down for your frame size in a wide variety of bike types with a lot more detail, check out the sizing chart @ Evan Cycles.
5’0″ – 5’3″
5’3″ – 5’6″
5’6″ – 5’9″
5’9″ – 6’0″
6’0″ – 6’3″
Where NOT to Buy a Bike
It’s tempting, but do not bother buying a bike from Walmart, Target or Toys R Us. They use the cheapest materials with the worst parts put together by people with minimum training and no testing. These bikes will not hold up to daily use or last more than a year or two.
A couple of months ago one of my friends went to go biking a 29 mile trail with me and some friends. He had bought him and his girlfriend brand new, top of the line, Schwinns (these used to be be really good bikes a couple of years ago but their brand was bought up and now they are used to trick people into thinking they are getting something of value) at Toys R Us for Christmas. They had ridden around the neighborhood but this was the first real ride they had taken the bike on. By half way through the ride his back tire had buckled so bad it was scraping his frame on each rotation and extended a 2 hour ride to 4+. This is of course just my experience but from what I have seen, these bikes are going to fail you when you need them. Spend the extra $100-$200 and get something that will not let you down.
Where to Buy a Bike
Got a good idea what you want in a bike now? Time to bite the bullet and get into the saddle.
If you are willing to do some basic maintenance, nothing beats the price point of getting something used. Tons of people want to get “healthy”, buy a bike and then give you a chance to get something for pennies on the dollar that has only been ridden a couple of times. A used bike is not a new bike though and may have minor problems you will have to deal with out of the gate or even major ones.
If you want a bike that you know will have nothing wrong with it, go with new. Most shops specializing in bikes will even give you your first year of maintenance / tune-ups for free. Other shops will at least have a trade in policy if something goes wrong with your bike.
In general, I would suggest you not buy a used bike for your first bike. There are a lot of ways to get ripped off and it tends to make the initial purchase a much more complicated affair.
Expect to spend at least $100-$200 for a good used bike but since a quality new bike is $500-$700 this is still worth while. Try to avoid going below $200 since you risk getting a low quality department store bike or a bike with something wrong with it.
If a bike appears to be a steal for the price it is going for that is probably because it is indeed stolen. Stolen bikes are a huge issue and if you can help it, please do not support a bike thief.
Do a Google search of the make and model of the bike you see used. Try to avoid anything more than 10 years old unless it is a high quality bike. A simple search should give you a general idea as to what you are getting into and if you are getting a good price on the bike. Shoot for a discount of at least 50% on what it would have cost you to buy that bike new.
When checking out the bike in person there are a couple of things you can check for to make sure the bike is in good condition. Do not worry too much about cosmetic items. Paint or tape can easily be fixed and will actually help you get a lower price for the bike. The items you will need to look out for are things that affect the actual use of the bike. Check the frame for cracks or dents, this is indicative that the bike has been crashed. Spin the wheels and make sure that the tires do not hit the side of the frame. Ensure that there is no side to side motion in the peddles or wheels.
Do not worry too much about cosmetic items. Paint or tape can easily be fixed and will actually help you get a lower price for the bike.
CraigsList is going to be your go to source for finding a used bike since it allows you to do a majority of your research from your house as well as the sheer quantity of listings will allow you to be picky in getting exactly what you want.
Look for people that are selling because they bought a new bike or are moving out of the area. This will give you a better chance of getting a bike that was maintained / looked after. Avoid bikes that are being sold because they were never ridden. These will likely not have been maintained. If it has been less than a year since they bought it, it is probably fine though. Try and arrange it so that you can check out multiple bikes in the same area on the same day. Make sure to buy/borrow a bike rack or a truck if you plan on purchasing that day.
The seller should be willing to let you test drive the bike provided you are willing to leave with them your ID or something similar. Like buying a used car, do not simply take the sellers word that everything is fine. A couple laps around the block will give you a good feel right away if there is anything majorly wrong with the bike.
This is CraigsList so feel free to negotiate on the price. Anything you find wrong with the bike or that differs from how they described it should be an easy $10-$20 you can take off the final price. Bring cash with you to pay for the bike (bring a friend if you are bringing a lot of cash … actually bring a friend no matter what, preferably one that knows something about bikes). When you have settled on the price, create an invoice for the bike purchase. Include the serial number, make/model, description and both of your names. If the seller starts acting shady about the invoice, the bike is probably stolen and you should leave. The invoice will be very helpful as well if sometime in the future you have your new baby stolen from you.
If you are looking for a specific brand (Trek is a good search term), you can do a search within CraigsList and save this search for later. I like to add this to my RSS reader if I have some time before I want to make my purchase.
Yard Sale / Thrift Store
I would not suggest yard sales or going to a thrift store. It makes it much harder to do research beforehand and your selection will usually be limited to 1 or 2 bikes. That said, if you happen to be at either one of these things and see a bike that fits you in the style you want for an awesome deal, there is no harm in picking it up if you can get it for super cheap.
Want that new bike smell? Nothing beats a brand new bike for you to immediately scruff and scratch up. Expect to pay a minimum of $200 for your first bike with a median of $400 and a high end of $1000. Do not feel pressured by the sales person into spending a lot of money on this, save that for when you have decided this is something you have the energy for and have figured out exactly what will be the right bike for you.
My first hybrid was right around $400 and I still use that bike weekly.
Local Bike Shop
A local bike shop is hands down my suggestion on where to get your first bike. Make sure to check out the yelp reviews for the bike shop. Once you have found one that looks reliable go ahead and have a sales person walk you through their choices for the type of bike you want. Pick a max amount you want to spend and have a firm stop there. It is very tempting to spend the extra $100 and upgrade to a better bike, but after doing this a couple of times you suddenly will find yourself spending twice what you had originally intended.
You will be able to browse more models and probably get a better deal with doing you shopping online. The downside is that unless you get free shipping it will end up the same price as local, more than likely require assembly and any issues with the bike are going to be very hard to deal with. I would stay away from shopping online foe a bike but if you feel like not taking my advice, here are the better online shops.
Who doesn’t love Amazon? Free shipping with Prime, large selection and great customer selection.
The Walmart of shopping online. Their savings are made up, the bike sales for the price they are selling it for, not the made up retail price they present. Large selection though and not bad quality. Just do not be fooled that they are selling high end bikes for cheap.
What is a bike without some bling?! A lock, light, pump and multitool are the only things that could be considered essential. Everything else is optional and can be bought later.
Lots of options on a bike rack depending on what kind of vehicle you have. I have the Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack and this has worked pretty well for me over the last couple of years. You are going to want to get something that does not obscure your license plate and is easy to take off and on.
It is very hand to have a small bag attached under your seat to hold your keys, phone, multitool, spare tube or other small items when you bike. Topeak Aero Wedge Pack with Buckle is the one I use and I have been pretty happy with it.
Sadly, a lock is a must. My favorite is the Kryptonite Kryptoflex 815 Combo Cable Bicycle Lock since I can wrap it around my bike frame and I do not need to bring a key with me. The more expensive your bike is though, the more expensive your bike locks will need to be. There is an old biking joke that every bike weighs 50lbs, since the lighter and the more expensive your bike is the heavier and bigger your locks need to be.
For most states, it will actually be illegal to ride your bike at night without lights. I actually keep my lights on during the day as well since making me slightly more visible to a car is worth it.
For right around $10 for a headlight and tailight, the BV Bicycle 5-LED Headlight and Taillight is going to be about your cheapest choice.
You are going to want to have two bicycle pumps for your use. The first is a small hand pump that attaches to your bike. This thing has been a life saver for me and friends I ride with more times than I can count. You always want to have the option to add more air to your tires no matter where you are. The second type linked below is a floor pump. You could get away with just buying that hand pump, but it will be extremely tiring, especially on high pressure tires. The floor pump can get you from flat to full in minutes.
The Topeak Alien || 26 function tool is by far my favorite must have accessory. It contains every single tool you will need if you have an repairs needed while you are out riding and its compact size means it will easily fit in the bag under my seat or in my backpack.
Really not sure why they call these computers but this will be a device that tracks your tire rotations to show you your distance and speed. These are pretty easy to install yourself and you can get a decent one for under $30, which is a lot of bang for your buck.
I picked up my biking computer in 2011 and other than replacing the battery last year I have not had to touch this thing since. Installation was a breeze even with this being my first bike modification.
Current, average and max speed
2 Wheel sizes
Search bike computers in Amazon if you want suggestions. Something in the $30-$50 range will work just fine.
I personally do not wear a helmet (unless I am mountain biking) and have a weird, convoluted reasoning for justifying why I do not. If you want to protect your noggin, you should probably wear one though. Do NOT buy a helmet used, these things are good for one serious crash only and you have no way of knowing this if you get it used. Get your helmet from a store instead of online since a bad fit will make it useless.
A bell or even a horn are a fun accessory to add some personality to your bike. They are also very useful to let pedestrians know you are behind them without having to constantly shout out “ON YOUR LEFT”.
Biking shorts will never win any awards in the style department but for saving your fanny from soreness they are worth it. If you are concerned about the look, simply wear a loose pair of shorts over top of them. I personally have only used biking shorts for a short time before losing them somehow (seriously have no idea how I could lose these things and at $60 I am not looking forward to buying a new pair without more looking), but in that time I did have them I found them useful. Make sure to get a proper bike seat first since this will usually be the root of your bum soreness.
Bike shorts will be very tight and have padding in the butt / crotch area where you are making contact with your bike seat. Great for a long ride in extending the amount of time you can stay seated.
If you plan on commuting or going on trails I would suggest the purchase of a biking back pack. The CamelBak M.U.L.E. 100oz is what I am currently using. Gives you a 100oz hydration packs, adjustable pockets in the back that can expand to fit your helmet, built in rain cover and tons of pockets to store everything you might need on a long ride. I have used this when I commuted to work to store my change of clothes and cleaning supplies for when I got to the office.
Always nice to stay hydrated. You will need a cage to attach to your bike and a water bottle to fit it. You can usually get a logoed one for free from your local bike store. If you want something a bit higher grade look at spending $15-$25.
Gloves are only really useful for long bike rides to help add some extra padding when gripping your handlebars. If you have an issue with numbness in your hands on rides, gloves should help with this a little bit. If you are prone to falling, they will also protect your hands from getting scrapped up.
The Pearl Izumi Men’s Select Glove is a decent overall glove for biking and the ones I use.
Bicycles are counted the same as a car for adherence to traffic laws, Keep this in mind while you are biking around, especially if you see a cop. You are actually required to stop at stop signs and not just slow down and look both ways. Whether you follow all the traffic roads while you are alone on a back road is up to you.
State Bicycle Laws
No state has a state wide law requiring helmets for adults, though a lot will require helmets if you are under 18. There are some specific counties that require helmets for all ages so please check this site for your specific county.
The chart below will show which states have a state wide law requiring helmets if under 18, if the state has a safe passing laws specify how much room a car must have before being allowed to pass a bicyclist (if it is N/A there is not a specific law so it is the same as other vehicles which is defined as a safe distance), if riding on the sidewalk is specifically disallowed, as well as if a bicycle is treated as a vehicle (this includes states where a bicyclist is not a vehicle but has all the same duties and responsibilities of a vehicle). Keep in mind that this chart is a guideline and that you should check your local laws for final verification.
Helmet If < 18
Treatment as a Vehicle
District of Columbia
Allowed (except in NYC)
Helmet If < 18
Treatment as a Vehicle
Riding alongside cars and pedestrians can be scary when you first start out. If you do not follow some basic safety guidelines there is a very real chance you are going to hurt yourself.
Ride with traffic and stay off sidewalks if you can avoid it. Try your best to go in a straight line and avoid weaving back and forth. The more predictable you are the less likely you confuse any cars coming behind you. Some new bicyclist think that you are supposed to ride against traffic but this only applies if you are walking.
Stop at red lights and at the very least slow down and look both ways at a stop sign (you are legally required to stop). If there are cars at the stop signs, go ahead and stop and follow the correct rules for a stop sign as if you were a car.
Be predicable in your riding and make sure to signal your turns. A simple outstretched hand to the left or right is all you really need for turning left and right.
Be the most alert near driveways, cars turning and parked cars (drivers opening their doors into you). These will be the most common types of car on bike violence.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Do not talk on your cell phone. If you are going to wear head phones make sure you use them in a single ear only.
Have headlights / reflectors for night biking. This is also required by law in most states so is something you need to do anyways. Reflective clothing and tape is a must as well if you plan on going out a lot at night. It is not a bad idea to keep your lights on during the day as well, everything that makes you a little more visible makes you a little more safe.
I found this site to have a lot of very useful and practical advice if you would like more bike safety tips.
Basically going to be only 3 hand signals you are going to use while biking. Straight out horizontally to your left will signal a left turn. Straight out horizontally to your right will signal a right turn. You will also see people use their left arm bent at the elbow upwards for a right turn but this is only useful in a car where someone would not see if you extended your right arm out so you do not need to do this on a bike. The last signal is your left arm bent at the elbow downwards to signal your are stopping / slowing down.
Ride in single file when you are in a group ride with other cars on the road. This will help prevent road rage from cars getting stuck behind your group and allow them to pass. You can ride two abreast if nobody else is around you.
If you are riding on the road and cars start getting backed up behind you, periodically pull over and stop to let the traffic clear up.
Use hand signals when in traffic. This will make you more predictable.
Stop at stop lights and make a hand gesture at other vehicles to assert their right of way. Do not insist on your right of way and pedestrians always have right of way.
Don’t chit chat on your phone. Pull over if you want to have a conversation.
Give pedestrians a nice shout out of “ON YOUR LEFT!” when passing (always pass on your left). A sassy bell or horn ring will help out as well. Be alert when passing, for some reason a lot of pedestrians will assume “on your left” means for them to immediately move to their left.
Unless specifically allowed, sidewalks are for pedestrians.
Walk your bike through crowds.
There is preventive and reactive maintenance. What you do to prevent problems and what you do when you get a problem. Pretty much all your preventive maintenance is going to fall under cleaning / lubing your bike after you ride it. How often you have to do this is really going to depend on where and how often you ride. The dirtier and the more often you ride, the more you will need to do.
I tend to really just wash my bike periodically and lube after every ride, but if you have the time to really keep your bike maintained, here is a good bike maintenance article.
Check tire pressure, you should not have any give when squeezing your tires. If you get any, fill your bike to the correct PSI. If you find yourself doing this on a daily basis, you might have a leak.
Make sure your brakes are gripping. A loose brake line or leaking hydraulic fluid causing your brakes not to work is not something you want to discover while riding.
If you are lazy like me, just simply spraying your chain and gears with a combination cleaner / lube after each ride will get you 90% there for basic maintenance. If your bike gets really dirty, go ahead and wash it down and then respray the moving parts with spray on lube.
Fixing a Flat
Fixing a flat tire or a tire that will not hold air is surprisingly easy and should take 15 minutes top. If you carry a spare tube and a basic bike tool with you (a must if you are doing trails), you can even do it away from the comfort of your home.
Things to keep in mind while changing your tire
A lot of tread has a direction to it, keep track of which direction your tread was facing when you take the tire off.
Rub your hand on the inside of the tread for anything sharp (slowly!). Whatever punctured your inner tube might still be stuck in your tread.
Adding a little bit of air to the new inner tube makes it easier to position.
Fixing a Broken Chain
A broken chain is one of the worst things that can happen to your bike while you are using it since you are now completely dead in the water and you either fix it or walk it back. If you carry a chain tool or a multitool with a chain tool on it you should be able to fix this immediately. I have yet to have to fix a chain (knock on wood), but this article will explain step by step how to do it.
As we become more and more connected, it is harder to leave behind our electronic devices, even we are immersed in nature’s splendor. The following are my picks for what to look for in a solar backpack and several good choices in what to get depending on what you need it for.
Reasons to Buy a Solar Backpack
Solar panels get better and better every year and they have finally gotten to a point where you can add solar panels to your backpack and as long as you are outside in the sun, keep your phone and other wearable electronics fully charged.
Who doesn’t want to help out Mother Nature? You have to use this a good bit to offset the initial carbon footprint cost of manufacturing this item, but as long as this is a well used item by you, you can count on free energy from the sun without causing any harm. Enjoy nature and help preserve it at the same time while staying connected off the grid.
More and more jobs require people to be outside for the jobs with devices that require power. Battery packs are a must in these situations, but including a way to charge keep these devices and battery packs charged gives you one less thing you have to worry about.
Do a lot of biking or hiking and want to make sure all your electronic devices stay charged? You are already out in the sun with a backpack, might as well use all that free energy beaming down on your pack. Do you need to keep a tablet, phone, GPS, flashlight, radio, digital camera, GoPro or one of hundreds of other electrical devices?
What to Look for in a Solar Backpack
I recommend a backpack that includes at least a 10000mAh battery pack with it. A 1000mAh is the ideal weight, not too heavy and beefy enough to charge your phone several times or your iPad a couple of times. A typical smart phone will have a 1440mAh – 2200mAh battery. Directly charging from the solar panel works but makes things more difficult then it needs to be. The battery pack will ensure that a charge is ready when you are. If it does not include one, you should buy one at least this size and make sure it is a dual port charger.
You are going to want to pair the 10000mAh power pack with at least a 7W solar panel. 7W is enough to fully charge the battery pack with a full day of sun (7-9 hours). The more wattages you go though, the quicker you can recharge and the more items you can charge. Once you go over 15W though, the price and size start getting past what you can comfortably fit on your back.
The panels should get a good amount of sun from just being on your back during a normal hike or bike ride as long as the sun is out. If you do plan on stopping for a little bit, it is worth it to make sure you lay your backpack flat on the ground so that the solar panels are at a 45 degree angle to the sun’s rays. You should periodically wipe your solar panels off with a microfiber cloth. The panels will pick up dirt and it is good to keep them wiped down to prevent pitting and degradation. If your backpack does not include a microfiber cloth, it would be worth picking one up and making sure to keep it in your backpack.
You are also going to want to make sure everything is at least water resistant if not water proof since this is designed to be outdoors and nobody wants to have to go find shelter every time there is a light rain. Protection from dirt and shock is also another good thing to look for.
Already Have a Backpack?
Already have a backpack you really like and just want to add some bare bones solar charging without having to get a separate backpack? You do have the option to just get separate charging panels and attach them to your existing backpack. Unless you are in the market for a new backpack, this is really the way to go.
The following two items are my two choices if you just want to add solar to an existing backpack. The first is a small clip on battery pack with a solar panel on its face. This will not provide a whole lot of solar charging though. The second option is if you want to add real charging capabilities to your backpack with full size solar panels, but it is a bit more expensive.
Levin Dual USB Port 5000mAh Portable Solar Panel Charger – $24
The best thing about this is its cheap! So cheap that it is worth it almost just worth it for it being a 5000mAh battery pack. For $25 you could easily buy this in addition to getting a full solar backpack and just hook it on for a little more peace of mind. The worst thing about this attachable mini charger is the same thing that makes it awesome, since it is so small, it can take up to several days of being in the sun to fully charge the battery pack. It can be charged manually though before your trip, so this makes a good emergency battery backup that you simply hook to your backpack and forget about. The battery pack has enough juice to charge a smart phone back up to full twice, maybe three times if its a small phone.
The small size of this charger makes it great for bringing to sports or to the beach and just leaving it on the ground while you enjoy the outdoors and get some free charging for your battery pack. Keep in mind that this is rain resistant and not water proof. A light rain is fine, but if you drop this in the ocean, you will need to dry it out immediately.
5000mAH and dual 1A USB ports
Compact at 5 1/2 x 2 7/8 x 1/2 inches and 5.3 oz
Built in flashlight
Rugged case that is water resistant and shockproof
Included micro USB charging cable, carabiner clip and regular + lightning Apple adapter heads
VIVO Solar Bag 2.4W Solar Panel and 1600 mAh Battery – $50
This is exactly the bag you think you would get for $50. The solar panel and battery are really just powerful enough to give you enough juice for emergencies or if you just want to make sure you always have the option to get some power to your phone or device. The solar charging is basically enough to keep your phone at the same level if you do not use it, which is really not a bad thing to have in a backpack.
Besides the solar panels, this is a standard 18″ backpack and would make a fun gift for a middle or high school kid. This is a decent option for an EDC (Every Day Carry) bag as it is just the right size for all the basics.
This is the highest rated solar powered daypack on Amazon, and it is easy to see why. Though a good bit under-powered compared to some of the other models for a similar price, this has the perfect feature set to be used as a small hiking, travel daypack or for light biking. It folds up into a convenient carry pouch that takes up very little room or weight in your main backback, suit case or briefcase. You could also use it on your lunch break or while commuting to work. Check out the photo below to see how small this thing gets! At 1.06 pounds this is great pack for minimalists.
This pack is made from rip and water resistant fabric, making this a light and durable pack. Common tear points are reinforced so this thing is built to last you many years of daily use.
The included solar charger is removable and foldable allowing you to choose if you want to use it or leave it at home. 3.25W is about half the wattage of a standard charger, but this is plenty considering this is only meant to be used for a couple hours at a time and then neatly put away. It is half the wattage but 1/3 the size since they use high efficiency solar cells. You sacrifice power for weight and size in this case. The solar cells are in a protective anti-scratch coating sewn into PVC fabric to make these durable for outdoor use.
Like most things in this back, the 2000mAh battery pack is less powerful than what you can get in some other packs but it is slim and waterproof and will give you a single charge to your phone or similar device. Once again you are trading off compactness and weight for power
Lightweight – 1.06 lbs
Roomy – 33 Liters
Unfolded – 19x13x8.2 inches VERSUS Folded: 7.5×7.5×3 inches
EnerPlex Packr Commuter Solar Powered Backpack – $80
This one is designed specifically for your work commuter (think bus, train, walking and not biking commuting). It has padded interior sleeves for your laptop with a charging pass-through. Lots of interior compartments and two external pockets for water bottles. Plenty of room for you business supplies such as pens, cards and notepads.
The shoulder straps on this are not nearly as adjustable as a backpack designed for hiking or biking, but you will also not have it on your shoulders all day, so it is a fair tradeoff.
This bag is perfect for business commuters that get a fair bit of sun on their commute and are not always near a power outlet.
Padded interior laptop sleeve with charging pass-through
Interior compartments with several pockets and charging pass-through
2 external zippered pockets for water bottles
Business supply compartments for pens, business cards, and more
SolarGoPack 5W Solar Cell and 12k mAh Battery Backpack – $100
This is a decent middle of the road backpack. Lots of pockets and compartments with a decent enough shoulder straps. Has a spot for a water bladder if you have your own hydration system already. 5W solar cells are a bit underpowered and the 12k mAh is a little more powerful than what usually comes with these. Some complaints on quality on this but customer service is very responsive with this company and they tend to take care of problems quickly. This is the backpack you want if you are shooting for average. Works nicely for middle or high schoolers though.
ECEEN Solar Bag with 7 watt panel and 10,000 mAh Battery – $120
Another quality bag from ECEEN. This thing is ultralight and ultra durable making it a great bag for everyday use. This thing is quite roomy as well, fitting a 17 inch laptop in the main pocket. Material is lightweight and water resistant including the solar panels and battery pack. Solar panel is flexible as well as being scratch resistant. 10000 mAh battery will charge your phone back to full 2-3 times. Dual outputs on the battery pack of 1A and 2A for charging your phone or tablet. Panels are power enough to charge up a normal phone from dead to full in 3 hours in full sunlight.
Comfortable and adjustable mesh straps means you will hardly notice this backpack on your back. Tons of pockets and compartments for all your needs.
If you are looking for a solar powered messenger bag, than this one is for you. 10W of solar power and 10k mAh power pack also means that this backpack will give you plenty of juice on the go.
This bag is made for carrying books and a laptop, not so much for hiking and biking. So, keep that in mind. Think going to school or a picnic not going for a hike in the woods. Interior is roomy enough to easily fit a 15″ laptop and includes an external side pocket for a water bottle. Inside compartment is roomy and expands to fit a few large books and lots of odds and ends. Shoulder straps are comfortable but can be wearying if you load this thing up with a lot of weight.
Solar backpacks that include hydration packs are the ultimate inconvenience. These include everything you want for a day trip, slack hiking or just walking around in the city. CamelBak, solar charging, battery pack and a comfortable backpack. A lot of these you can purchase at a cost cheaper than just getting a normal CamelBak. Solar + Hydration for cheaper than a CamelBak? Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
For most of these backpacks I would suggest you wash out your hydration bladder several times before using it. Completely fill it with water and let it drain through the tubing 4 to 5 times at least. If not, the water will have a plasticy taste to it. After this you should clean your bladders with a Camelbak Antidote Cleaning Kit once a month or after several uses. If not, your tubing and bladder can get grungy and disgusting. Make sure to store the bladders completely dry as well, if not you can get mold in the tubing that can get hard to clean out.
Ivation 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration Backpack – $100
I really the features to price for this backpack. You can usually find this cheaper than just getting a similar quality CamelBak, so the addition of the solar charging is almost just a bonus. The bladder has a wide cap and makes it really easy to fill up. 1.8L is plenty of water to carry around without having to worry about running out and also not worry about too much water weight on your back. Tubing and bite valves are pretty simliar to what you would get with a CamelBack hydration pack, so no worries on that end.
The 7-watt solar panel clips on to the backpack in a 4 point attachment that makes it easy to detach if you do not need solar charging that day. The shoulder harness is lightweight mesh and does not chaff. It has several adjustment points and nice airflow, so this should be comfortable on your back all day. The solar panels are sturdy and the included battery pack is waterproof, allowing you to not worry even if you get caught in the rain. Stitching is solid and includes access holes for your hydration tubes as well as cables to your battery pack so you do not have to take out the battery while you keep your phone charged.
This is not a full sized backpack so its best if you only have a couple of things you need to carry or need a lightweight backpack for daily use. The included 10000mAh power pack is the perfect size for keeping multiple devices charged throughout the day. The zippered pockets on the side are prefect for storing your cords and other small items.
Removable 7W/6V Solar Panel Absorbs Sunlight While Biking, Hiking & Camping
Includes Waterproof 10,000mAh Emergency Power Bank/Backup Battery Stores Charge
2 USB Charging Ports Simultaneously Charge 2 Mobile Devices Using USB Cable (1 Cable Included)
Backpack Features Large, Zippered Pockets for Storing 2 Phones Plus a Tablet
1.8L Water Bladder Features Flexible Pipe for Drinking While Wearing Backpack
ECEEN 7W Solar Charging and 1.8L Hydration Backpack – $120
This backpack from ECEEN is super similar to the Ivation review directly above and pretty much has the exact same feature set but slightly better quality and $20 more expensive. If you have an extra $20 to spend, this is the one to go for. The color choices on this look pretty stylish and make for a good all around backpack to wear for any activity.
The 7W solar panels will fully charge the 10000mAh in 7 hours of full sun. The battery pack has dual USB ports so you can charge two devices back up at the same time. Pack has 4 LED lights to indicate how charged it is. If you charge it up using an electrical outlet instead of the sun, it should take around 6-7 hours for a full charge.
Straps are all adjustable and include thick padding in the shoulder. Even full loaded this should not cause any strain on your shoulders. Back should get plenty of airflow so this pack should stay pretty cool and keep your back from getting too sweaty in the sun.
Hydration pack has a big mouth for easy filling and the tubing and bite make for easy drinking from your 1.8L bladder while using the backpack. Side pockets are convenient for storing cords and small items.
Want the best of the best for your bugout bag? For $390 you can get the Voltaic Systems 10W Backpack. This thing is your go to bag for making sure you are ready for hurricane season. This backpack is expensive, but like purchasing a fancy car after doing a lot of research, it will be well worth the purchase.
Included solar panels (10W) and battery pack (20k mAh) are just beastly. The battery will full charge most 15″ laptops and smaller and will recharge it with 11 hours of sunlight. Will charge a 10″ tablet 1.7x times and will recharge a tablet with 3.5 hours in the sun or 2.5 hours of tablet use per 1 hour in the sun. The amount of connectors you are given with this thing will allow you to charge all known Apple and Android devices as well as most DSLR and you can recharge the battery pack with the included DC connector (car).
This thing has a huge interior and plenty of room to fill this with all your bug out items so you are completely ready when SHTF.
Backpack is made from water and UV resistant fabric all while still being lightweight.
1500 cubic inches of storage including a padded laptop sleeve and tons of pockets.
Solar system can be removed and used independently of the backpack.
1 hour in the sun will charge an efficient laptop for 40 minutes of use and give you 2.5 hour of use from a large tablet.
3 rugged solar panels with 10W peak output at 6V or 18V. Panels are coasted in a self healing urethane to withstand scratches as well as being waterproof and lightweight.
Battery system inclues a removeable 20,000mAh / 72 Wh battery with USB outputs of 5V/2a, 12V/3.5A and 19V/3A. Can also be charged from AC or DC.
This thing is like the backpack version of the calculator watches kids in the 90s wore. It has a lot of functionality and seems like a good idea, but it really just does not pull off the concept. For $75 dollars you can get a much nicer backpack, more powerful panels and a bigger battery. Maybe you really want the speakers though? Which seems to be the only thing this backpack has going for it. Though, for $5 bucks you could probably get better speakers than are included on this.
3W is not a lot of solar charging. This would take you a full day of sun to give your phone a noticeable charge. The included 2200 mAh power bank is not enough to even give your phone a full charge. This bag is also cheaply made and most reviews show that it falls apart almost immediately. Save your money and buy something better.
Continuing with our common camping questions, here is another one that will give you an almost 50/50 split when you poll your friends. As the hours and days pass, your cooler filled with ice slowly but surely gets replaced with water. Is it better to drain this water out or keep it? From a pure physics perspective, it is better to leave the water in unless it is making the items in the cooler soggy or you have to carry it around a lot and you want it lighter.
Don’t drain cold water – Water from just-melted ice keeps contents cold almost as well as ice and preserves the remaining ice much better than air space. Drain the water only when necessary for convenient removal of cooler contents or before adding more ice.
During use, it is not necessary to drain the cold water from recently melted ice unless it is causing contents to become soggy. The chilled water, combined with ice, more readily surrounds canned and bottled items and will often help keep contents colder more effectively than the remaining ice alone.
Why You Should Not Drain Out the Water
Water makes better contact with all your food items keeping everything bathed in coldness
The more cold water you have the more energy the outside environment must exert to warm up your food.
Once all the ice is melted the water continues to act a a heat sink
You actually hear this question more often than you think you would, with it usually followed closely by the followup question if everyone should get naked and huddle for warmth as an effective warming secondary strategy. When you are camping in cold weather, is it actually warmer to sleep naked than to sleep with your clothes on? The short answer to this is only if the only clothes you have are damp or wet, if not, then probably not. Each person is slightly different and your exact conditions will be different, but unless you are an experienced camper, just go to sleep dressed in dry layers.
If you are anything like me, you will have to pee at least one time in the middle of the night. Trying to put all your clothes back on without leaving the warmth of your sleeping bag makes sleeping naked almost not worth it just for that reason.
One common mistake is placing your dry clothes next to your wet clothes within your backpack. In no time at all, your dry clothes are now your damp clothes.
There are exceptions to everything though. If you are doing high altitude camping with a really good sleeping bag, then you could actually be better off sleeping naked.
Reason to Sleep Naked in a Sleeping Bag
All your clothes are damp
You sweat a lot in your sleep and will soak your dry clothes
You have a sleeping bag that works best when you are naked
There is someone else in the sleeping bag with you
Going camping in winter might sound like an amazing idea. There is the crisp snow all around you, endless snow games and the calming trek through the snow-laden trees. Such is the beauty of winter, a beauty that comes at a price. The biggest problem in winter camping lies in the same thing that makes it interesting, the frigid weather. While most people think of packing the warmest parka they can lay their hands on, your comfort lies in something bigger at night – your tent.
Knowing the basic things to consider when choosing your winter camping tent ensures that you stay warm and cozy all through the night. Since you want a balance between weight and functionality, it would be better if you understood the essentials of winter camping and all the tricks that you can use to cover up for your tent shortcomings without putting your life at risk.
Why a four season tent
The camping rule of thumb says that you pack nothing but a 4-season tent when going for winter camping. Unlike 3-season tents, 4-season pieces are designed to shed snow rather than letting it accumulate on the fabric hence preventing the tent from collapsing under the snow’s weight. Four season tents also have thicker walls that are amazing in giving the tent sheer structural and protective power. They provide extra insulation and protect you from the chilly wind of the winter.
What to look for
The first thing to look for is the tent’s ability to shield you from the cold. You will need something with heavy fabric that keeps away the cold. 4-season tents are especially designed to cater for this. Other than just thinking about the tent walls, also consider your tent’s flooring. The floor should be both insulating, waterproof and versatile enough to endure the punishment from your heavy winter boots.
2. Tent’s capacity
The worst thing that could ever happen to you in winter is separation from your group. Keeping someone near you increases your chances of surviving. The help could be mutual, by sharing body heat, or physical by helping each other do something. Buying a tent that can accommodate three to four people will not only keep you close to the team but also let you use natural body heat to warm things up.
Even though you shouldn’t be camping in a blizzard, expecting it and carrying a tent that is strong enough to endure the gale could save your life. In most cases, you have to work with tents that have reinforcing aluminum poles, stakes and reinforced doors. This will not only keep the tent at one place but also allow you to open the tent doors in a considerably rough weather.
In as much as we are trying to keep the heat inside by using heavy walls, a poorly ventilated tent could be your very demise. Your body produces moisture. This moisture could easily condense and get the inside of the tent wet if it’s not vented out properly. Go for a tent with adjustable venting mechanism as this could give you control over the tent’s microclimate, just like you would use a window to control a house’s temperature.
5. Ease of access
Three or four people is quite a number. Fitting through one tiny door in a hurry could be impossible. Buying a tent with two doors makes things simpler. You can split doors for faster entry and exist. Better still, in case something blocks one entrance, you can always use the second to escape unscarred.
Even though this should be the last thing on your mind when choosing a winter tent, it won’t do you any harm to choose something that is easy to tot about. Consider how you will be transporting the tent before making your decision.
Any good 4-season tent will have all these capabilities in mind. If you don’t mind the bulk, you could even get something with bathtub floors and some space for storing dirty or wet gear. If you buy such a tent, consider getting a sled to tug it on if you will be going far away from the roads.
The other option would be a car tent. With the right car, you could convert the rear into a superb camping area. A pick-up truck or an SUV with a tailgate will work well with a Dac-Mid-Size truck tent. You will have the solid metal and chassis of your car to protect you from below and still have a tent over your head hence keeping the camping spirit alive.
Double wall or single wall
Double wall 4-season tents have two walls. They are stronger, bulkier and warmer. If you are headed to a cold place and intent to stay on one place for longer, you should consider carrying such a tent. They have better ventilation and are bigger hence are a perfect way of setting up the base camp or some common meeting place if you are camping as a group.
Single walls are amazing since they can be sufficiently warm and versatile. They are good enough for a small group or an individual. Compensating for the shortcomings by packing some warm clothing and a way to make some coffee or cocoa could be all you need to keep warm through the night.
Sometimes, camping is all about using what nature has to make life better. You needn’t fully rely on your tent to keep warm. Choosing your camping site well, for instance on a protected place should keep off the wind making things warmer. If you will be camping in one place for long, you could consider pitching your tent in a trench. Just ensure that the spot you pick is leveled and you don’t stand the risk of being covered in snow overnight.
Knowing what you need out of a tent is the key to choosing the right thing for your winter camping needs. Coupling your desirable sharing options with the acceptable tent bulk will help you choose a winter tent that will be easy to move about and strong enough to protect you from the elements.
To avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger, user caution when observing, photographing, and making sound or film recordings.
Limit your use of recordings and other methods to attract birds. Never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or to attract any species that is threatened, endangered, or is rare in your local area.
Keep well back from nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display areas, and important feeding sites. In such sensitive areas, use a blind or hide and take advantage of natural cover for extended observation, photography, filming or recording.
Before advertising the presence of a rare bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized, and permission has been obtained from private land-owners. The sites of rare nesting birds should be divulged only to the proper conservation authorities.
Stay on roads, trails and paths, where they exist, and minimize habitat disturbance.
Respect the law, and the rights of others.
Do not enter private property without the owner’s explicit permission.
Follow all laws, rules and regulations governing the use of roads and public areas.
Practice common courtesy with other people. Your exemplary behavior will generate goodwill with birders and non-birders alike.
Crossbows are weapons similar to a bow that shoots projectiles, commonly known as quarrels or bolts. The weapon consists of bow mechanism mounted on a frame which is typically made of wood or, for modern crossbows, out of composite materials or plastics.
The crossbow has a long history, being used since the ancient times in warfare and siege operations across Europe and East Asia. The Middle Ages crossbow was known by many names derived from another similar weapon, the ballista.
What Is a Crossbow?
A crossbow consists of a bow which is mounted on a stick and a mechanism that holds the tensioned bow string. When shooting a crossbow, a vertical element is placed in the slot of the stick, to force the string mechanism into action. The rod is usually placed in a perpendicular position, creating a trigger. If the string is released, the projectile shoots. Other designs include a nut made of metal that holds the string at all times.
The main benefit of a crossbow when compared to a traditional bow is that the crossbowman can keep the weapon stringed for a longer time, thus enabling a better aim. The bow is made of composite wood, horn or sinews which are glued together in layers.
Modern materials include steel, plastics and other composite elements. The strings made of highly tensile elements, such as linen, sinew or hemp. In some areas, twisted mulberry root is used. Modern strings are made of special plastics or latex.
Some small crossbows can be drawn manually, but heavy crossbows need mechanical devices to be drawn properly. This is done with simple hooking mechanisms, together with a belt and a lever. Cord and pulley crank devices can also be employed for some crossbows.
Choosing a Crossbow and Common Types
It is important to understand and know the numerous types of modern crossbows when choosing one for leisure activities, hunting or sports. These weapons come in a variety of shapes, sizes, pulling mechanisms and most importantly, they have different calibers and shooting speeds. Here are some of the popular types of crossbows available:
Recurve crossbows are crossbows that have the ends curving away from the user and they give more speed to the projectile.
Recurved crossbows are more strenuous on the materials and usually make more noise when shooting.
Compound crossbows have limbs far stiffer than the recurve crossbows and have a different cocking mechanism. Because of the stiffness of the limbs, the crossbow has pulleys that are attached to both limbs with one or more strings.
If the string is pulled, the pulleys act as a pulling mechanism, moving the limbs back to ensure more energy and higher velocity for the projectile.
These pulleys work by using the maximum amount of energy coming from the short draw length.
In modern times, crossbows can be used for recreation, sports, hunting or for science purposes. Also, crossbows are used as weapons in various military use is still in place in some areas.
Oceanology and marine scientists use crossbows frequently to obtain tissue samples from whales or dolphins. These are specialized crossbows that use a special projectile that can hook into flesh and take blood samples or skin samples. A string is used to recover the sample from the water.
Modern archery also involves the use of performance crossbows which are highly regulated and made of very light materials. These crossbows can produce speeds of over 400 feet per second and can be extremely precise.
Legal Aspects Of Owning and Using a Crossbow
Because crossbows are lethal and similar to bows and firearms, they have a complex legal status. In the United Kingdom there is no license or registration required when owning a crossbow. However, they cannot be used by persons under 13 years of age without adult supervision.
Laws for owning and using crossbows in the US vary greatly by state. Buying and ownership is legal in all states but there are specific laws for hunting with crossbows. For instance, in Georgia it is illegal to use crossbows to hunt waterfowl, but it is legal to hunt any other animals. Also, Oregon has a full ban on hunting with crossbows.
In Australia, all pistol crossbows are strictly controlled by severe laws because of their small size and concealable nature. Normal crossbows can be bought and owned by any adult, but some states require sport or hunting club memberships.
Comparison Chart of Top Crossbows
The chart and crossbow reviews below will help you make an informative decision about what crossbow is best for you. Whether you look for a crossbow for leisure activities, hunting or sports, this guide will help you find the crossbow you are looking for.
These weapons come in a variety of shapes, sizes, pulling mechanisms and most importantly, they have different calibers and shooting speeds. We also give you crossbow reviews of the top 5 crossbows on the market today.
Crossbow brand and model (click to learn more, read crossbow reviews or to purchase)
Overall weight – Pounds
Overall length – Inches
FPS – Feet Per Second
Arrow length/Grain – The type of arrow recommended by the manufacturer to achieve the FPS speed mentioned in the chart.
Draw weight – Pounds
Price – These are approximate prices on Amazon.com. These change frequently based on availability, special promotions, and more. But generally speaking: $ = under $150, $$ = $150 to $300, $$$ = $300 to $500, $$$$ = $500+
Rating – The average user rating on Amazon.com. This shows if people are satisfied with their purchase.
The Best Crossbows On The Market
My Top 5 Overall
Excalibur Axiom SMF Crossbow Kit (4.9/5)
The Excalibur Axiom SMF is a beautifully crafted crossbow that couples increased functionality with an appealing design. This crossbow weighs no more than 5.8 lbs, has a power stroke of 14.5 in, a draw weight of 175 pounds and it works with arrows 20-inches in length. Moreover, the overall length of Excalibur Axiom SMF is 37.5 inches, which makes it very compact and easy to transport.
What customers appreciate the most in their crossbow reviews is its increased accuracy, its light weight and the convenient price-quality ratio – the kit can be purchased for no more than $525.88, an affordable price tag given all the features and functions of this crossbow.
In addition to this, the crossbow is also very easy to assemble, especially since the kit comes with a comprehensive instructional DVD that teaches you how to do it, step by step. Last, but not least, this exquisite crossbow can produce arrow speeds that reach no less than 305 feet per second.
The Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow is by far the bestselling product by Barnett, and for a good reason: it is lightweight because it is made from composite material, it has a crosswire cable and string system, it is easy to install and use and it comes with three 20-inch arrows. Made in the US, the Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow has a 4X32 mm scope, a draw weight of no less than 150 pounds and a power stroke of 13 inches.
The firing velocity of the Wildcat C5 Crossbow is of 320 feet per second, and the overall crossbow weighs 8.5 pounds. Last, but not least, the package also comes with strings that measure 37 inches in length. As customers claim in their crossbow reviews that the broadheads are very accurate and the crossbow is perfect for professional hunting sessions.
The Barnett Jackal is a military-style crossbow that has a draw weight of 150 pounds, a 3.5 pound trigger pull and can shoot arrows at no less than 315 feet per second. This crossbow has an innovative and sleek design and it is designed exclusively for hunters. It has a power stroke of 12 inches and the arrows measure 20 inches in length.
The crossbow weighs 7.7 pounds and it has a series of useful other features, such as the HD camouflage, the AVI foot stirrup and bolt retainer or the synthetic cable system for easy manipulation. This package also comes with a 5-year limited warranty from the manufacturer, and it is certainly a great addition to the kit of every passionate hunter. Also, users state in their crossbow reviews that they are particularly pleased with the fact that this crossbow is lightweight, strong and adjustable at the same time.
With a weight of no more than 7.6 pounds, the Barnett Ghost 350 CRT is one of the lightest bows manufactured by Barnett. The kit is made in the United States, and it comes with four arrows and rope cocking device along with whiplash cams and crosswire strings. Moreover, the kit also has a 5-year limited warranty from the manufacturer and it can fire bows at 350 feet per second.
With a draw weight of 175 pounds, and arrow length of 20 inches and a power stroke of 12 inches, the Ghost 350 CRT is a very popular choice amongst professional hunters who are looking for a state-of-the-art crossbow set.
With a power stroke of 10.5 inch, a total length of 34.5 inches and a string length of 26.5 inches, the Arrow PrecisionInferno Fury Crossbow Kit is considered one of the most cost-effective kits of its kind available on the market.
The kit involves four bolts, 3 Red Dot Sight, extra string, a rope cocker and a padded sling. This crossbow kit is very compact and lightweight, mainly because of its compression fiberglass limps.
The key features of the popular Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit manufactured by Arrow Precision include the quick detach quiver, the 175-pound recurve crossbow or the adjustable scope mount.
The crossbow can launch arrows at a speed of 235 feet per second, it weighs 4.84 pounds and the body of the crossbow is made from aluminum coupled with lightweight composite material. As many customers claim in their crossbow reviews, this crossbow is powerful and accurate and it is the most suitable kit for deer hunting.
This extremely highly rated dayback is currently on sale on Amazon when you use promo code XRUIRX3A. This pack is usually on sale for $70, so $50 for a daypack is a great deal, one that is foldable and includes a 3.25 watt solar charger is just outstanding.
The backpack folds up into a little pouch, which makes it perfect for traveling in your luggage or trunk. It unfolds in seconds and is ready for use. The 3.25 watt charger is slow going but it will keep your phone or GoPro charged up nicely.
Rain can happen anytime. I have learned from experience you always need to keep your phone in a ziploc page while camping. If you plan on being near water, the beach or just want something more secure then you really can not beat this waterproof phone case. It holds phones up to 6″ and locks as well as has a neck strap for easy usage.
The case normally retails for $30 on Amazon, so $7 is a pretty hefty discount.
This collapsible lantern normally retails for $50 and is currently on sale for $8, which pretty much made this an instabuy for me. I normally just use a headlight for my night time illumination, but this lantern’s small size and huge battery life convinced me it was worth the extra 4.3oz in my pack.
Also works as a flashlight, SOS flash and shock/water resistant is just icing on the cake.
Current on sale from Amazon from $129 to $85 if you use the coupon code ZN33WBBS at checkout. Reviews on this seem to be a bit questionable so buyer beware. For $85, for 3 people, this looks to be perfectly fine for a backyard or light camping trip.You can buy a larger, heavier grade for more money, but if you are on a budget and need a sturdy 3 person tent this should do nicely. Setup is expected to take 2-3 minutes due to the automatic folding feature.
Great deal on this medium sized cooler. This is usually $40 on Amazon and you can get it for $18 from Kmart today! This cooler will hold right around 60 12oz cans or however much food would take up the same space as 60 12oz cans. No wheels so this will be a team lift using the sturdy side handles to get this cooler to its destination.
$59 – Coleman 100 qt. Xtreme Wheeled Cooler with Tow Handle
Need something bigger than the 48 qt Coleman? You are in luck! The 100qt version is currently on sale on Amazon. This cooler usually goes for an even $100 so act on this fast! This bad boy is perfect for throwing into the car for a camping trip. It will hold 160 cans if you are in a drinking mode or several days worth of food. This is rated to keep ice for up to 5 days in 90 degree temperature, so this should last you your whole trip easily. Big wheels and drain plug with a channel makes taking this to your destination and then cleaning it out a snap. Convenient drink holders in the lid make this perfect to pull up next to the camp fire and enjoy your night.
Want to bring your own rocking chair out to you to the woods? You are in luck, this camping chair is $20 off today from Kmart and you can pick this up for $40. This chair normally sails for $82 on Amazon so this is a pretty sweet deal. This chair has a lot of phenomenal reviews and is one of those camp items that once you have one you will always immediately buy another since you do not want to go without it anymore.
Get some rope, tie this to two trees and really elevate your camping experience. Nothing says relaxation like chilling in your hammock. You can pick up a hammock from Woot for $25 today. Keep in mind that this does not include a stand, but that should be just fine for a camping trip. This is a pretty heavy duty hammock so this really only makes sense for a day trip or if you can pull up right next to your camping site. This is not a hammock you would ever want to backpack anywhere.