Solar-Powered Camping with Goal Zero’s Yeti 400 and Boulder 30 [REVIEW]

Solar-Powered Camping with the Goal Zero Yeti 400 Solar Generator and Boulder 30 Solar Panel [REVIEW]

Phone, camera, Kindle, laptop… As a travel writer, I travel with these items almost daily. But the best destinations don’t come with power outlets, and camping without power limits you to the pre-charged power you brought along. That is, unless you have a generator.

Being as it would be impractical to purchase a large, noisy, fuel-powered generator for a quiet camping trip in a small car, and also wanting to be eco-conscious, I was eager to find an adequate off-grid power solution. My research directed me to Goal Zero’s on-the-go solar panels and batteries.  As a super environmentally-conscious solar power supporter, I so wanted to love everything about them — and I’m happy to say I came very close. Read on to discover our first experience with solar-powered camping and find out what wasn’t quite perfect about the particular setup we chose. Continue reading

How to Successfully (Not) Plan Your Campervan Trip in New Zealand, Plus Our 3-week “Itinerary”

How to Successfully NOT Plan Your Campervan Trip in New Zealand on northtosouth.us

We’ve learned from experience that creating a definitive schedule for a road trip is pretty silly, and since camping without planning is an easy thing do in New Zealand, we approached our 3-week campervan trip with no campground reservations and vague plans to explore the country from north to south. With the assistance of the Camping NZ App and recommendations from several local contacts, we decided what to do and where to stay as we went.

In the three weeks we spent in New Zealand, we drove entirely around both the North and South Island, experiencing some of the best New Zealand has to offer — without receiving a single infringement along the way. Here we share our guidelines for an unplanned, yet well prepared, campervan trip in New Zealand. And at the bottom of this post, you’ll find our “un-itinerary” — the unscheduled list of places we stayed and things we discovered along the way. Continue reading

Burning Man Packing List for Two Burners in a Tiny Car

Burning Man Packing List: Two Burners in a Tiny Car

Driving a small car to Burning Man? That’s what we did for our last two Burns, and it certainly posed some packing challenges for our week-long camping trip in the dusty playa. If you’re wondering what you can reasonably pack for two people in that tiny car you own, take a look at our Burning Man packing list to find out!

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Burning Man 2016: Portraits of a Camp

Burning Man 2016: Portraits of a Camp by Diana Southern and Ian Norman

I say this every year, but I say it because it’s true. The people are what makes Burning Man such an incredible experience — friends and strangers alike. I don’t know what my Burn would have been this year without that group spiral hug at the Hug Deli, the helpful strangers who lowered me back down from that MAGIC artpiece I climbed, or the hilarious nude portraits we captured of some of our spontaneously sparkly friends.

In my three years of burning, I’ve found it’s the people closest to you — your campmates — who have the biggest impact on your Burn. You camp together, eat together, explore together. You experience Burning Man together. So this year we again turned the spotlight on our campmates for a sunset portrait session in the open playa.

With 14 Burners, ample booze, and a brief appearance by “El Guaco” (I still can’t believe I missed that), Ian and I did our best to capture the spirit of our Burner family on camera.  Continue reading

Escape Campervans Review: Los Angeles to Death Valley (and why we don’t recommend Escape Campervans)

Escape Campervans Review and Our Trip to Death Valley

Let’s visit a popular U.S. National Park in peak season at the last minute! Yeah, that sounds like our travel style. And that’s how our conversation started two weeks back when we decided we had to see the Death Valley Superbloom.

All advance reservations for park accommodations were full. We could try our luck at a first-come first-served campsite, but we didn’t really feel up to tent camping this trip. So we decided to try something new: the rental campervan.

Despite paying more than we should have (no thanks to Escape), we had a good time on our trip. Want to know what the campervan life is like? Keep reading to find out! (More on why we don’t recommend Escape Campervans, too.) Continue reading

The Superbloom of Death Valley National Park: A Photo Journal (California, USA)

Death Valley Superbloom Spring 2016 on North to South: a Photo Journal

After receiving substantially more rain than typical in the 2015-2016 winter season, Death Valley National Park is experiencing a rare “superbloom” of wildflowers. The last superbloom event was 11 years ago, in 2005.  Since missing this year’s superbloom could mean waiting another decade or more before it happens again, we knew we had to go see this rare event.
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The Magical Landscape of White Sands National Monument: A Photo Journal (New Mexico, USA)

The Magical Landscape of White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA

This year Ian and I checked a HUGE item off our bucket list. We can both now officially say we’ve visited all 50 U.S. states. (Hooray!)

We’ve explored a LOT of the U.S. this year — even amplifying our goals to include visiting all 50 states in one year’s time — and every time I tell people about our epic quest, I always get asked some version of the same question: Which place was your favorite?

Well, if you limit me to a certain number, I’ll have trouble answering, but White Sands National Monument is absolutely 100% somewhere on my list of favorites. (Funny, because our visit there was completely unplanned.) And while I could go on and on about how amazingly surreal and magical the scenery is there, I think the photos will give you a better idea. So I’ll let the scenic photos do most of the talking… Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week Seven (Wyoming to Alberta)

North to South U.S. road trip recap week seven

Week seven was by far one of the most memorable weeks on our road trip. I can’t believe how much we saw in one week! Oodles of wildlife, gorgeous sunrises, and even the Northern Lights — all the way down in Yellowstone National Park (they’re not usually visible so far south).

Somehow we managed to visit FOUR national parks all in one week. And despite late night Milky Way photo sessions, we managed to wake up before dawn TWICE to witness the gorgeous sunrises Yellowstone has to offer. If you’ve never seen Yellowstone yourself, add it to your bucket list NOW. And in the meantime, you can drool a bit over these photos!

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers June 20-27.

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U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Weeks Four, Five & Six (Illinois to South Dakota)

North to South U.S. road trip recap weeks four, five and six

After completing our third week on the road in the U.S. this summer, we decided it was time for a little breather. We departed St. Louis at the beginning of week four and then pressed the pause button when we reached Chicago. And there we stayed, visiting my twin brother, for the first two and a half weeks of June.

Despite growing up in St. Louis, I’d never visited the nearby Windy City ’til now. And what an awesome place it turned out to be! So much so that we decided we’d return to Chicago for an even longer break after our upcoming national park loop. We finished off this three-week period in Badlands National Park, where we found unique erosion-formed landscapes, plentiful prairie dogs, and the craziest (and unexpected) storm we’ve ever experienced! (You don’t want to miss that video.)

Note: Since we paused for so long in Chicago, this recap covers weeks four through six of our U.S. road trip. And I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers May 30 – June 19.

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[VIDEO] Shot of the Week: Night Storm Symphony (Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA)

It was cool and sunny in South Dakota when we woke up in our tent this morning. No indication of the craziness that ensued last night, other than the minor bowing to our east-facing tent poles that left our tent slightly askew. And we were among the lucky. Our tent had survived.

Around 8pm the lightning started. It was beautiful. The sun was setting behind a thick wall of clouds, and whenever the distant lightning struck, pink light puffs would appear and pulse throughout the sky.

The campground full, there didn’t seem to be need for alarm. Everyone was continuing on, getting ready for bed as they would if there were no threat nor signs of a storm. It wasn’t until I overheard a neighboring camper collecting his son, telling him “Let’s go. I don’t want to be here when it hits,” that I started to worry. We quickly checked the radar on Ian’s phone, and the image confirmed: it was coming. And it would hit hard. Continue reading