I first went to Smith Rock State Park in the late 1990’s. It is truly one of the most beautiful and unique places that I have ever seen. As with all things cool, it was born out of a volcanic eruption. 300 million years ago the eruption shot ash and debris into the air. When it settled Smith Rock was created. Then half a million years ago lava flowed into the area and hardened the rocks. Over time erosion and the Crooked River formed magnificent Smith Rock State Park.

There are many things to do in Smith Rock State Park. There is a first come first serve camping area with bathrooms and showers, and it’s vast 621 acres provides hiking and horseback trails. From these you can see massive amounts of amazing animals. There is a family of River Otters that live in the Crooked River. Mule deer, marmots(I took a quiz online and this is my Smith Rock spirit animal), lizards, and rattlesnakes all dot the landscape. If you look into the sky you will see bald eagles, canadian geese, northern harriers, ospreys, great blue herons, and one of the biggest birds of prey in North America, the golden eagle. But most come here for the climbing.

Smith Rock State Park

The thing I love about climbing is the adrenaline rush you get with minimal risk. I know, minimal risk you say; have you seen Cliffhanger with Sly Stallone. That scene where that woman’s harness buckle breaks and she plunges thousands of feet to her untimely death. No wonder Black Diamond was going to sue. That would never happen. Anyway, I’ll go climb, but I would never ride my bike downtown; too risky. It’s also relatively cheap to start climbing. All you need are some climbing shoes, harness, belay device, about five locking carabiners, fourteen quickdraws , a rope and rope bag, some chalk with a chalk bag, an anchor and a personal anchor. All this will run you about six hundred bucks. Small change for a new and exciting passion in your life. And if you live near Portland, Smith Rock is only three hours away.

US Outdoor employee Dan G. sport climbing Smith Rock

Smith Rock is the birthplace of sport climbing in the U.S.. Sport climbing is a type of climbing that relies on the use of permanent anchors, or bolts fixed to the rock for protection. You climb up the route, clip into the bolt with a quickdraw, clip the quickdraw to your rope and move up to the next bolt, and on and on. Alan Watts, the father of sport climbing, started climbing Smith back in the 1980’s. Back then there were only a small group of core climbers at Smith, now it has become a destination for climbing all over the world. One of the great things about Smith Rock is the diversity of places to climb and the amount of routes, there are close to 2000. Monkey Face, To Bolt or Not to Be, Five Gallon Bucket, Crybabies, and Just Do It, a 5.14c that at one time was the hardest sport route in North America, are just a few of the famous climbs of Smith Rock.

You can see why Smith Rock is a world renowned climbing destination. Which is why the American Alpine Club is having the SMITH ROCK CRAGGIN’ CLASSIC, a 3-day climbing festival at Smith Rock. It’s starts September 15th and goes to the 17th. It’s a celebration of climbing one of the great crags in the world. There will be food and beer, and you can stop by for some of the clinics taught by professional climbers. You should probably go before the beer. Two US Outdoor climbers, Alex H. and Dan G. will be there, you will be able to spot them by the US Outdoor shirts they will be wearing. Dan’s got a pretty impressive beard, and Alex, well, he’s pretty. So stop by the pop up tent, pick up some swag and talk to those guys about climbing. They know their stuff. And like I said, the beard.

The ten essential items for car camping that you probably don’t think about.

For those of you who are hardcore backpackers you should probably move along. But if you’re car camping and want to take it to the next level, here are ten things that will open up a whole new world of automotive outdoor dwelling.

Camping Hygiene

Camping on the Deschutes River a few years back the Nemo Helio Pressure Shower was something I never thought I’d need, but by the end of that night I would have given anything to have one. My wife and dogs left camp that night for an evening hike along the river. When they got back she said, “They rolled in something,” and by the look on her face I knew it was bad. Then the stench hit me, something like newborn baby diapers and chinese food. I started to gag. Fearing I would hurl, I grabbed a beer, ran to the car and got in. I know, I’m a coward. I sat there, drank my beer and watched Shawna go back and forth countless times, down to the river, filling her water bottle, dumping it on the dogs and scrubbing them with Dr. Bronner’s Soap , over and over again. It took over half an hour before camp began to smell half decent. I should have grabbed two beers. Needless to say, lesson learned. The following Monday the first thing I did when I got to work was run down to the camping department and grab a Nemo Helio shower. Now that thing goes with us everywhere.

Nemo Helio Pressure Shower

Campsite Lantern

A lantern. An obvious must. But two lanterns is the way to go. I use a Coleman Propane Lantern for the picinic table and my Black Diamond Apollo L.E.D. lantern to help me navigate through camp during the night. Hang it inside your tent or bring it with you to the outhouse. The best part is, it’s small, packable, and easy to carry.

Coleman Propane Lantern

Canteens & Tumblers

A Hydro Flask is always a good thing to have on a camping trip, and I’m not talking about your standard water bottle. I’m talking about a Hydro Flask Tumbler . When you’re chillin’ around camp, it’s easy to hold in one hand, so you can keep that other hand free for slapping mosquitoes or throwing a stick for the dog. It’s best use, as US Outdoor employee Pat once said, “It good for cocktails and such.”

Hydro Flask Tumbler

First Aid

You absolutely must have a first aid kit. I know it’s boring, but it’s essential. I have two kits, the first is an expedition size. It has everything and it comes with a backcountry first aid guide book. It spells out with great detail how to take care of everything from a tick bite to a sucking chest wound. The other kit I carry in my backpack. It’s a smaller Adventure Medical Kits . I augment it with a tourniquet;
Quikclot trauma pak
, it helps to stop bleeding fast; and duct tape, it has a million uses, not literally, but you get my drift. Remember what my Grandma Shirley used to say, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”. Good advice.

Adventure Medical Kits

Basecamp Shelters

Cordage and tarps go hand and hand. I always have a tarp and at least fifty feet of cordage
with me. You never know when the Pacific Northwest sky will open up and douse your camp with a vengeance. With cord and tarp you can set up a nice awning over your picnic table, thus saving your weekend. However, if you’re on the Deschutes River you’re screwed. No Trees. I’ve had that happen a few times. But at least you can practice your knots with your cordage while you ride it out in your tent.

Tarp and cordage.

Campsite Utensils

I love my Snow Peak Titanium Spork. What can I say about a spork. Half spoon, half fork. Need I say more. Yes, it’s titanium.

Snowpeak Titanium Spork

Camping Cookware

My wife needs her coffee in the morning. I know it’s cliche, but she does. She says the only thing good about morning in camp is coffee. You have to be quiet, it’s cold, and you can’t drink. At least not until noon. So she fires up the stove, boils some water, and grabs the Java Press and presto, coffee. I like to Irish mine up a little, wait until noon, please. We’re camping.

G.S.I. Java Press

Camp Tools

One of the most important tools I carry when I go camping is my Leatherman. Leatherman is synonymous with the term multi tool. Having pliers is essential. It’s definitely gotten me out of a jam a time or two.

Leatherman Multi Tool

Basecamp Essentials

My favorite item that you’ve probably never heard of is the Little Buddy Heater . It uses the same propane tanks that my Coleman lantern runs on. Just screw one on and press the ignitor button and you have a nice heat source for over seven hours. I’ve had some cold nights on the Deschutes River in February and March, and that little thing cranks the heat. It is such a psychological pick up to have warmth in the midst of numbing cold. I know it seems like a luxury,” but if you have the means I’d highly recommend picking one up.” A blatant Ferris Bueller reference, but how great was that movie?

Little Buddy Heater

-written by usoutdoor employee C.Tyrell

What’s New: Black Diamond – Half Dome Helmet

Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet


If you’ve been around the outdoor block you understand that Black Diamond is no pony in a stud’s stable. Their brand has delivered head of the class, adventure driven products for climbing and skiing since their inception in 1957. With that much experience, outdoor enthusiasts can rest assured their interests are well preserved.

With that said, sometimes a product doesn’t have to be “new” to be new, if that makes any sense. I say this because the Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet has been completely redesigned and now has a better fit and cuts weight without compromising safety. In the spirit of climbing adventures, every ounce counts and the right fit could mean the difference between life, serious injury and even death. I’m not trying to sound too dramatic but often times it helps to get the message across.

As Black Diamond’s most popular climbing helmet, the Half Dome spans the gamut of the climbing spectrum; from alpine climbing to cragging it helps lighten the load for adventurers partaking in a sport which relies on technique, speed, agility and mental toughness. Available in two sizes: SM/MD and MD/LG, the Half Dome weighs in at 290 g/10 oz for the Small/Medium size and 320g/11oz for the Medium/Large size and offers great features that personify safety, comfort, and performance. Its ABS Shell exterior is well ventilated and is outfitted with molded EPS foam for superior comfort and breathability. Lighten up (figuratively of course); its head lamp clips are a market best. Equipped with tuck-away suspension, the Half Dome became more pack friendly. Another key feature is its new custom design wheel adjuster that allows you to quickly and easily dial in a precise fit on the fly. Every feature plays a roll in delivering a seamless climbing experience.

In closing, come the inevitable critiques helmets receive in the style department. However unflattering climbing helmets might seem to some, they bear the heavy burden of keeping your think tank in full working order; although I must give the climbing community due credit when it comes to checking this sort of vanity at the door. But all that aside, it’s a helmet engineer/designer’s duty to keep you safe. With that said, you can bet they understand that designing a lightweight helmet with a great fit that allows the helmet to remain relatively inconspicuous while not making you look like a total goon is preferred. Thus, this Half Dome redesign is not gaudy or flashy; it does not scream fashion or leap out at you; it is just a great design that exemplifies the proper blend of form and function. Cheers!

Check out the Black Diamond Half Dome Climbing Helmet at, click here.