Trans-Pecos Audubon

Outdoor-Camping Blog

How to Clean and Deodorize Ice Chests and Coolers

How to Clean and Deodorize Ice Chests and Coolers

No matter what model of cooler you use – a marine cooler, an insulated backpack ice chest or just a regular cooler, you want to keep it clean after each use. Who wants to spend a lot of money on a new cooler or ice chest every season, right? The secret is – if you clean your cooler regularly, it can last longer! Good cleaning removes stains, smells and keeps a cooler away from mold and mildew growth. And that is important because I can tell – that mold is just so disgusting!

Even if you’re super tired or just lazy you have to clean your cooler to prevent all the unpleasant issues. But don’t worry – here are some simple recipes from me to you to clean and deodorize a cooler with products that everyone has at home. Let’s get it started!

What do we need?

  • Dish detergent;
  • Baking soda;
  • Bleach;
  • Sponge or towels;
  • Your favorite essential oil.

How do we clean it?

I noticed that after trips I often see some food remains in my cooler. Those little fellas should be removed at the beginning of the cleaning procedure.

  1. First of all, wipe down the inside and outside of your cooler/ice chest with a bucket of soapy water. Rinse it, but don’t dry it. Use your sponge to get rid of all the stuck-on food and drinks. This may be not very pleasant, but you’ll thank me later.
  2. After that pour baking soda inside the wet cooler. My advice to you – use fresh, brand-new pack of soda because it works better and doesn’t lose its strength. Let the baking soda sit up for a half hour.
  3. Rinse everything and dry your cooler with a towel. Keep the drain open while you do this. Try to leave the water drain open after each trip so mold doesn’t grow from the wet environment.

How about some disinfection?

Which best disinfector and mold killer for coolers and ice chests you know? Of course it is bleach. Here are the instructions:

  1. Put 1/2 cup of bleach into a 1-gallon bucket.
  2. Use white towel or sponge to carefully wipe down the inside and outside of your cooler. If you still have any concerns, use a small toothbrush to clean every tiny bit of it.
  3. Rinse with water until the bleach odor is gone. This is really important – you don’t want your food taste like bleach, right?

What’s with the chemical smell?

I don’t like the smell of bleach; it makes me sick to my stomach. You too? Well, I may have some tips for you here. Use your favorite essential oil (mine is vanilla)! Soak a towel in water with a few oil drops. Leave the towel inside the cooler overnight and remove the next morning. Here you go – clean and deodorized cooler or ice chest! The last advice: don’t delay with cleaning, better do it after every trip.

The Joy Of Camping

The Joy Of Camping

Tent Camping

What God has created needs to be discovered and enjoyed by us humans! There is such joy as a family to get away from the humdrum of life and be in the great outdoors! This is wonderful for children as well as adults to get away from the normal routine and enjoy God’s creation. So much to see and learn out there! Weekends and vacations spent camping will be good for the entire family. AND—tent camping is so inexpensive! Not like owning a huge RV! (of course, with a 2$million RV, you’re not really ‘roughing it’, are you”—so let’s speak in human terms here) The costs are the tent, sleeping bags, lantern, cooking stove, refrig, and food, of course. (don’t forget the food).

What a great way to unwind and see wonderful changes in your life! Doesn’t cost too much to leave the daily routine behind and enter into a brand new relaxing lifestyle. One that will energize you and give you new strength and peace!
There’s only one reason to finally plan your very first family camping trip… great bonding. I have friends who have been camping with their family for quite some time now and I see the good impact especially on the children. I hope ours will be something to treasure and something that will bring us much closer and intimate with each other—and closer to God.

And you have questions like these — What gear do I need to get? What food should I bring? How do I cook the food? What kind of wild animals could I run into? How do I pack? What sort of activities can I do while camping? How do I start a campfire? Even if you didn’t ask those questions, you the type that still wants the answers anyway, right? Well, if that’s you, you’re not alone. You’re among the few smart people who take the steps to find out how to make a camping trip enjoyable ahead of time.

Imagine this for a second…

You’re outdoors and surrounded by nature… you’re sitting with friends or family around a crackling campfire. You smell the fresh burning firewood, and hear tree sap sizzling and popping out. Up above, you see a night sky lit with bright stars… a shooting star perhaps. Just then, you realize sleeping in a tent outdoors is amazing. You feel alive listening to every sound outside at night. The whole trip comes together just as you pictured it. Everybody’s happy. Everything ran smooth because you went prepared, and because you knew what to do early on. Yes, you’re family is missing too much by not camping!

Hiking Clubs - 6 Reasons to Join One

Hiking Clubs – 6 Reasons to Join One

Hiking clubs had never interested me when I was younger. Being somewhat introverted, I truly enjoy hiking alone in the wilderness. I particularly like the freedom; I can decide where I will hike, the route I’ll take, how frequently I will take breaks, how long I’ll stay out, and the type of pace I want to keep. And there are many people out there just like me. But there are six good reasons why you should break up the hiking-solo pattern and consider adding a hiking club to your mix.

There is Safety in Numbers

Even with the best plan, unfortunate events can still occur on the trail, whether it’s a twisted ankle, an adverse effect to exposure of the elements, or even a regrettable encounter with wildlife. For instance, hiking in groups can significantly reduce the chances of running into an aggressive bear. And if there’s an injury on the trail, someone can always run for help.

Shared Cost

Sometimes the cost of accessing some hiking trails can be high, depending on the destination, and the transportation and trail access needs. Travelling in groups can help reduce the cost.

Learn From Others

People come to the group with different experiences and knowledge. Some are informed about hiking gear, some know a thing or two about the wildlife, and, most astonishingly to me, some people really know a lot about the native plant life, not just the scientific names, but the medicinal uses as well. It’s unlikely I would delve deeply into any one of those topics myself, so I’ve learned much because of the conversations I’ve had with others.

Learn About New Trails

Sometimes the group will select a trail that I have never hiked before, and perhaps never intended to. I have a few hikes and scrambles that I really enjoy and tend to default to them from time to time. But I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the excellent trails I’ve hiked as a result of being with a group.

Social Interaction

Maybe it’s just me, but after hiking solo for a long time, the little mental conversations I have with myself really start to annoy me, to the point where I just want to tell myself to shut up. Too much solitude makes me wacky and even the introvert in me wants some human connection. I still enjoy frequently hiking solo, but it helps me to be with a group from time to time to feel connected to others and to activate my mind.


Although I usually wake early and am excited to greet a new day, sometimes I need a little nudge to finally get me out the door. It’s not every day that I feel like donning the hiking boots and heading to the trail, but when I finally am on the trail, I’m happiest. And since disappointing my friends is high on my list of undesirables, committing to hiking with them is the motivation I sometimes need to get going. And heading to a nice street cafe with them afterward is the icing on the cake. Mmm.

Enjoy the trails solo – there is wonder and serenity in doing so. But I encourage you to add a hiking group to your repertoire to more fully enjoy the experiences of the trail. Happy hiking!

Free Camping Beats Fuel Hike

Free Camping Beats Fuel Hike

We’ve been free camping for many years – all round Oz! It’s a great way to offset the cost of fuel, especially towing a caravan on a long haul. On one trip taking in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland we met a grey nomad couple at Prairie Lions Free Camp in Far North Queensland. This was to be only their second free camp and being first to arrive they were mightily relieved to see our intentions to join them for the night.


I was reminded of my concerns in our early days of free camping. Security was always first on my checklist although the Other Half cracked hardy. I must admit up-front that we’ve never had a single negative experience in terms of security. There have been three occasions when the hairs went up on the back of my neck simply because of the vibe of the place. Twice we moved on, but once the Other Half refused to budge and we got about as much sleep as parents of new-born twins. So, if for no other reason I would say trust your instincts or you’re in for a long night.

I still feel more secure if at least one over-nighter joins us at a free camp. Best of all are those popular spots like Burra Gorge in South Australia and Rollingstone’s Bushy Parker Park in Qld where over thirty rigs pull in and you’re instantly welcomed into the grey nomad set – but get there early for a good spot!


One of the reasons some free camps are very popular is that toilets are provided either by councils, National Parks, service or sporting clubs. To these providers I say a hearty thank you!


Now you have to remember that free camping sites don’t provide power – at least not usually. On this trip we found power provided at Kumbia (donation appreciated) and Wallumbilla on the Warrego Highway. Generally though you have to be independent. For some travellers this means a campfire and a torch or candle – which is okay outside the bushfire season.

Some travellers take a generator especially to keep the freezer going. If you’re camping in a National Park check first if genies are okay. Another option is to harness solar power to keep a battery charged and run a 12 volt set-up.

We find that we can manage just with a deep-cycle battery to power our needs for three or four days. We run our three-way fridge on gas. On a vegetarian diet we don’t have much to freeze. Then we go to a caravan park to re-charge the battery, do the laundry and have a swim in a pool. Really, your lifestyle will guide your choice of power source.


You need to do your research to see if water will be available at a free campsite. Sometimes there is mains water from a tap; or a tank which may or may not contain rain water; and other times there is water for washing but not for drinking.

We always take some water with us just in case. If we have a long distance to travel we take on water at the town closest to the campsite to save carrying weight and using more fuel. Even so, we have found this risky as water is sometimes scarce in towns and not available to travellers.


One of the great advantages of free camping is that the family pet can often come too. They are usually prohibited in National Parks and some council sites.

In order to maintain this privilege please keep your dog on a lead if required; or if other people, wildlife or stock are around – and pick up their droppings.

Locating Free Camps

So, how do we know where the free camps are? We have four main sources of information. Firstly there is the grapevine – that communication network among travellers that may be word-of-mouth through a conversation overheard in a laundry. Caravan and four-wheel-drive magazines are another way to learn about free camps, and you can see photos of what to expect.

Then there are the Information Offices for each region that publish brochures on what’s available in their area, and others too. These days we rely largely on a publication called Camps Australia Wide which is updated regularly and gives information on the facilities available at each campsite.

A Model-Free Camp

On this trip we came across our ideal free campsite! It is at St Lawrence in Queensland. Why is it so great? It is a large area at a recreation ground divided into two halves. One half is for travellers with generators and the other half is for people who value peace and quiet. It has toilets and showers – with a coin feed for a hot shower and hot water at the basins. All is immaculately clean!

Then there is a port-a-loo dumpsite, and a clearly signed potable water outlet. There is a large covered area for rainy days, even a fenced and shaded area for children to play on the lush manicured lawn. The night we visited there were forty-three overnighters. For councils or other providers interested in setting up a free camp surely here is your model!

Free camping is the way of the future to off-set soaring costs. What better way for small and medium-sized communities to benefit economically from the travelling grey nomads. We are an expanding group and this is a great way to keep us travelling further and attract our dollars. Even the larger towns and cities are losing caravan parks due to high costs on valuable land.

For those travellers yet to try free camping rest assured there is an entry level to suit any comfort zone. A little research is all you need.