Appalachian Trail Camping

The Appalachian Trail or A.T as it is commonly referred to, is an amazing hiking trail situated in the eastern part of the United States. It extends from northern Georgia to Maine. This magnificent trail traverses over 14 states and is over 2,180 miles long. Imagined back in 1921, constructed by private citizens, and finally finished in 1937, today the A.T. is overseen by a number of agencies including, the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and thousands of unpaid helpers. Stretching through a variety of rough country, small towns, back roads, and over rivers; the A.T. is a hiker’s paradise. While many hikers attempt to trek only sections of the trail, there are a brave and motivated few that attempt the entire trail at one time. This is commonly called a Thru-hike. A.T. camping allows one to truly connect with Mother Nature in all her plentiful glory and celebrate in that which is the great outdoors.

Appalachian Trail Planning

In order to have a really gratifying hiking adventure and get the absolute best out of your trail hiking/camping experience, you need to be sure that you plan it well. For starters; before setting out, you will need to learn what all of the regulations and permits that are required as it pertains to the trail, as well as find out the latest and most current updates concerning any safety and weather concerns. You will want to file a hiking plan with the ranger station and be sure to identify a contact person, in case of an emergency. You will want to call and check in at various intervals, making sure your contact knows approximately when to except to hear from you. This way they can alert authorities should you fail to check in or if something should happen back home.

Of course you will want to determine exactly how to get to the trail depending on where you wish to start from; what transportation you can take to get there, or if/ where you are allowed to park while on the trail. Find out if you need a parking permit and make arrangements to pick your vehicle up at a later time once you have finished your journey. The purchase of an Appalachian trail map is a must, and if the trip is a long one, be sure to gather plenty of information about all the available shelters and camping areas. Remember, there is little to no cell phone usage, so depending on your phone for mapping or calling for directions is simple not an option.

Two specific books that are key to an A.T. hiker’s success are the ‘Appalachian Trail Guide’, containing actual stories by real through-hikers and the ‘Official AT Data Book’ which is updated with regularity with information about trail distances, water availability, road crossings, shelter locations, etc. Both are published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) which is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the trail.

Shelters for Camping

If the idea is for you to backpack the Appalachian trail, then you need to figure out how and where you will spend your nights. If you prefer a schedule that allows for more flexibility and are don’t have any issues with carrying a little the extra weight in your pack, then you could certainly consider pitching a tent in the wild. Now the ideal place to stay is as close to a shelter as possible, or you could also make use of one of the selected campsites that have a flat, cleared, and even surface. In certain areas of the trail, like in the southern Appalachian region or the national forests of Virginia, you are permitted to pick your own campsite, just as long as you are cautious to clean up all of the affected the area and leave no trace behind. The ideal scenario is to mitigate any human effect on the environment. Campers are discouraged from building any camp fires due to the harmful impact it could have on the local eco-system and are suggested to use a small backpacking stove as an alternative. If you absolutely have to have a campfire, then you should be sure to build one in a conventional fire pit and follow all of the fire regulations and restrictions posted on the trail.

You do have another choice as it pertains to camping along the A.T. and that would include the more than 245 back country shelters that exist along the Appalachian trail. The majority of these shelters are comprised of just three basic walls, a wooden slat floor and a metal or tin roof. They are usually located close to some type of natural water source and several have a pit toilet or outhouse close by. The shelter tends to fill up quickly with hikers as they stop by. Because of this, it is wise that you carry a tent as a backup just in case the shelter is at capacity when you happen to reach it. The shelters are constructed to offer a camping space for the individual hiker. So, if you are part of a larger group that would take up the entire shelter, then you are instructed to camp outside instead.

Shelters do provide good protection during bad weather conditions and also serve as a good occasion for hiker’s to get to know one another and swap stories from the trail. You should know that shelters located in heavy-use areas generally require some type a reservation, and/or fee to stay. Also, don’t be surprised to find very filthy conditions and even rodents in some of these shelters, given that some hikers don’t take the time to clean up after themselves.

In the end, when you set out to hike the A.T., it is important to make sure that you abide by the ‘leave no traces’ mind set. Please do not to walk on plant life or use any live wood for building campfires. Do not leave trash behind, chop down or remove trees, or destroy any of the structures or shelters. Appalachian trail camping brings with it a large responsibility towards the preservation of the trail and an enormous respect towards others that are hiking and camping on the trail. When enjoyed responsibly, the views are stunning, the experience is breathtaking, and the idea of being one with the trail is type of physical and spiritual journey that is sure to life altering and inspiring.

4 Easy Ways To Extend The Life Of Your Camping Tent

Your camping tent is not only the place you will sleep in when you’re outdoors, but it also protects you and keeps you safe from outside elements. Having said this, your tent deserves care and attention to help it extend its life.

Here are some ways on how you can care for your camping tent:

Protect the floor of your tent

The key here is the spot where you’ll be setting up camp. An ideal area would be a spot that is smooth and level. Clear the area of small debris like rocks, twigs, pine cones and the like as these might cause cuts to your tent’s floor. To further protect the floor, use a footprint, a ground cloth that will provide the floor of your tent an even smoother surface to be set up in. Lastly, don’t bring any foot wear inside!

Keep away from the sun

Not only are the sun’s UV rays harmful to your skin but to your tent’s surface, too. The UV rays would do damage to both the fabric and the nylon fibers. Your best bet is to set up camp at a shady area, but if you can’t find one, use a tarp to shade your tent. If you’re going to be out for a while (hiking, fishing or backpacking), remove your tent from direct sunlight.

Keep the food outside

Don’t bring food and eat inside of your tent. There are a multitude of insects out in the woods and food attracts many of them. You don’t want insects to be crawling all over your tent and trying to chew their way in through the fabric just to get to the food. And besides, camp food should always be placed in tightly sealed containers to avoid attracting bears and other wildlife to the campsite.

Keep your tent clean

While packing up, give your tent a good shake to get rid of any dust and dirt that may have accumulated both inside and outside. It’s ideal to wash it every after use to ensure that there’s no mildew on any surface and also to remove dirt in the zipper which will help prevent it from malfunctioning in the future. Don’t forget to dry your tent completely before storing it loosely in a bag at a cool, dry place.

Follow these easy tips to extend the life of your camping tent and you’re sure to enjoy its service for many years to come!

Taking Care of Your Camping Cots

You do not go on outdoor activities very often. They happen normally once or twice a year, depending on the availability of your time. That is why camping gears like camping cots are kept in the storage room. This is not just to organize them but it is also a form of preserving the equipment. They are considered to be your investments, so it is a must to take good care of them.

One way of maintaining the quality of your portable cots is to clean them every month. Even if you do not use them very often, you have to secure that they are not consumed by termites or covered with thousands of dusts. It does not mean that you keep them in your storage room, they are already protected. You have to do a regular inspection, maybe once or twice a month. In this manner, you can assure that your sleeping gears are still in good condition.

When you are checking your camping cots, you have to clean them as well. They are usually made of materials that are easy to clean. Just make sure to use the proper cleaning stuff to avoid any damage. Some of them have their own containers, so you do not have to look for something to wrap them. But if they do not have any case, try to look for plastics or anything that would secure them from any scratch or particles. There is a tendency that their fabrics can get stains if they are not properly stored.

Another suggestion of cleaning your portable cots is to wash them. There are some sleeping gears that are made of water resistant components. Hence, you can easily wash them. Sometimes they get smelly if they are kept for a long time. Small particles will accumulate, that is why they generate bad smell. Do not forget to clean their steel frames so that they will still look good as new. For those cheap ones, their frames easily get rusted. You should learn how to prevent them from losing their original color.

If you happen to encounter damages on your camping cots, try to repair them immediately to stop from getting worst. If you can not manage to fix them on your own, bring them to the nearest repair shop. Or you can ask the shop where you bought and ask if they could have them fixed for you. It is inevitable that these cots can have little damages specially if they have been with you for a long time. But that does not mean they are already useless. As long as you can fix them, you can still utilize these gears.

It pays to know how to take care of your things. They usually have proper care instructions, so do not disregard these reminders. You will be using them for the maintenance of the item. Whether they are expensive or not, you have to know how to preserve them. Camping gears are considered to be investments, thus you should not take them for granted. Even if you do not use them that often, they still deserve proper handling.

Top Camping Tips For a Smooth Trip

Anyone who has ever been camping will have a few camping tips to share, and so here are just a few that I've acquired over time. I do not claim to have invented these ideas but they are things that have stuck in my head. Some you may have heard of and will be familiar with, some may not be helpful, but hopefully (maybe) you'll like the sound of just one – or it may even give you a spark of an idea – and you'll find a way of using it on your next camping trip.

Firstly, it is always a good idea to have a Practice Camp – if not in your garden, then in someone else's, or at a quiet spot somewhere where you won't be disturbed. Basically it is much better to get used to your canvas tent and basic gear first, before you pack the car up, drive a good few miles and then discover that you underestimated the time required for pitching and setting up camp. Or worse, that you don't thoroughly understand how to erect the tent in the first place. If you have a bell tent it is one of the easiest tents around to erect – but having said that I have still seen some rather basic mistakes, which have resulted in the tent being unstable, wonky and something that would not resist much of a breeze .

Once properly erected for the first time, and especially if it's in your own garden, a good idea is to furnish it with stuff that you think you'd either (a) need or (b) like to have with you on a camping trip . Take time to work out what you need around you to (a) function and (b) feel comfortable.

So then you can build a check-list of essentials that you 'need' to take on either a short or more basic camp, or alternatively things that you 'would like' to take on a longer, more comfortable camping trip. Categorise things such as bedding, cooking, wet wear, dry wear, hot / cold weather gear, kids stuff, games, relaxation (wine!), Basic kit, glamping items, whatever suits you.

Another 'pre-camp' tip is, split the tent poles, pegs and canvas. Bell tents should come with a main carry bag for the tent and groundsheet, a separate bag for the poles, and another bag for the pegs, mallet, spare ropes etc. This means that you are basically splitting the weight. Even if you use a trolley this makes it much easier to handle the basic tent components.

One final canvas bell tent tip – always use a footprint. A footprint is basically any old (cheap) tarp that you place underneath the actual tent groundsheet. You can buy expensive ones but it really is not necessary. Ensure that the footprint is around 5cm / 2inches smaller than the actual outermost edges of the groundsheet. Using a cheap builders tarp found in any DIY store will do. Then simply cut to size. The idea behind the footprint is that it helps to keep the bulk of the dirt off the underneath of your groundsheet, making pack-up much easier. And it needs to be slightly smaller than your groundsheet to stop rain from running in between the two and 'pooling' under your tent.

Kids usually love camping and being outdoors. They love the freedom, and the resulting dirt! So kids' clothes may need to be frequently changed. A suggestion is to pack kids' clothes in individually rolled bundles. For example, pants, socks, shorts, T-shirts – all rolled into individual bundles and then those bundles packed into some sort of storage case or box. This makes things a lot easier – simply pull out a bundle and hey presto! Clothes for the new day!

Speaking of storage boxes – plastic storage boxes can be easily found these days in a huge mix of sizes and styles. So to use these for packing camping essentials makes sense, as the containers themselves are lightweight, and also stackable. This means they're easily packed into car, and once in your tent, they can be positioned around the tent in strategic positions with a simple cover / throw over the top. They then instantly become transformed into attractive, stable, usable, table-like surfaces.

Yet another reason to take (at least one) plastic storage box with you if you have very young children, is that it can be filled with warm water to create a convenient bath-tub for a youngster. And they'll probably love it!

Speaking of water, if you are camping on a lake, or with a boat or canoe, a brilliant suggestion I once saw was to attach your key (s) to a champagne-type of cork. If the keys are not too heavy, or if you only attach the most important one (or else attach each key to a cork) it will float if dropped into the water! Brilliant!

Another idea for storage is to buy one of those soft plastic or canvas hanging-style shoe-caddy type things. They have multiple 'pockets' into which, unless you really want to store your shoes, you can store kitchen utensils, cloths, candles, corkscrews or other little bits' n bobs. Simply hang the caddy up in your kitchen tent, or on one of the poles inside your tent.

5 Useful Tips For Camping In The Rain

Even if you know the weather forecast during your camping trip, there's always a chance that it will rain so you always have to come prepared. If it does, the fun does not end there. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can make your stay comfortable and even more fun even though it's pouring outside. Remember, don't think of it as an inconvenience, think of it as a challenge!

Try these awesome tips for camping in wet weather:

Invest in the right tent

The outdoors are unpredictable so you always have to be prepared no matter what the weather is. If you plan to go camping during the rainy season, buying a good quality tent with built-in vents. The vents will help prevent condensation inside. If purchasing a new one is out of the question, you can opt to re-proof your old one. Use a tent proofer spray to restore your tent's ability to repel water.

Bring a gazebo

A gazebo will help greatly when you're camping in wet weather. It will shelter and protect you, your tent and your gear from the rain. This means that you can still enjoy being outside of your tent without getting wet.

Think about storage

Resealable plastic bags will be useful for storing clothes, toiletries and other small items when you're outdoors. They are waterproof, too, that's why they're ideal for the rainy season. Don't forget to store wet and dry items separately and make sure you have dry clothes to keep you warm when you're inside the tent. Seal food items tightly to keep them fresh and to avoid water from getting in.

Don't forget to protect yourself

Your gear is all set, but you also need the right clothing and accessories for yourself – nobody wants to catch a cold and be unable to enjoy while out on an outdoor trip. Arm yourself with a waterproof jacket, trousers and boots. Keep bug repellants ready (many tend to come out in wet weather) and pack a microfiber towel – they're compact, absorbent and dries quickly.

Plan fun activities

There are still some fun outdoor activities you can do even when it's pouring. Play board games, bring out the guitar or tell ghost stories with kids to keep them entertained.

Camping in the rain doesn't have to be a hassle – with the right gear and attitude, you're still sure to have a memorable trip!

Finding a Quality RV or Camper Repair Service

Looking for and deciding on an RV service and repair center is not an easy task. You can get into a shop with incompetent technicians who bungle the job and leave more damage (and costs!) Than before you entered their premises. There is no foolproof way to know if a shop can do the job right or not, but there are things you can do and look into in advance before you entrust your cherished car to them.

Ask around. Asking friends and co-RV owners is a great way to find out if an RV service center delivers on its promise. Were they satisfied with the servicing or repair of their recreational vehicles? Were the charges reasonable and worth it? If you got negative comments, make sure you know what it is about.

A quality motorhome repair service employs experienced technicians that have had long years of experience in RV repair and maintenance. They are experts who can handle RV components such as electrical systems, plumbing, air conditioning, appliances, batteries and generators, awnings, cabinets and compartments and other parts of an RV. They can do exterior and interior repairs of fiberglass components, window frames, inside and outside walls, rear cap and metal sheet replacements and other essential work that needs to be done.

A reliable RV service shop gives you a warranty on its parts and services because they are confident of their skills and the quality standards of their replacement parts, from mechanical components to bathroom fixtures, countertops and other home equipments.

A good RV service provider is transparent in all their dealings. They are honest and upfront with clients. They show the condition of their RV and what needs to be done. They give their clients a detailed accounting of the fees and charges.

A camper or RV service center that is customer service oriented has staff that is reliable, courteous and willing to explain anything that the RV owner asks. They treat all customers with personalized attention and patience. You'll have a good night's sleep knowing your vehicle is in trustworthy hands.

When choosing an RV repair and service shop, get one that has a large inventory of retail parts and components to replace your damaged ones. Servicing will be faster and prices of parts lower than if they have to source them from other dealers. A retail department also means you can get back on the road more quickly.

Common RV Repairs

Except for the wheels and engine of a recreational vehicle, there is not much difference from a house in the parts of an RV that gets damaged. If you are the type who likes to get down on your hands and knees and do the repairs yourself, you can save money by fixing these easy DIY reconstructions and replacements.

1. Water System – burst water pipes, leaking faucets, leaking valves of toilet bowls and broken water pumps are just some of the usual damages incurred in an RV, especially after a winter freeze period.

2. RV structural components – punctured rubber roof, broken window frames and cracked window panes, and damaged rooftop vents can be gotten from tree branches hanging over when you pass by in your RV.

For other repairs such as the mechanical and propane systems, tire damage, suspension and such, I don't trust myself enough to be competent in doing them. I rely on my longtime trusty RV repair and service center to keep my vehicle in tiptop condition so that I don't encounter any problems that would ruin my family's camping experience.

Tips for Camping With Just an ATV

There is nothing more peaceful than sitting around a campfire enjoying a night under the stars or snuggled up in a tent telling ghost stories. But, some of the most beautiful places to camp are only accessible by an All-Terrain Vehicle. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a month-long adventure, preparing and packing for an ATV camping trip can be overwhelming. It’s not just the destination that counts, it’s also the equipment you choose to take (or don’t take). Here are a few tips on having an amazing camping trip by only taking what can fit on your ATV.

1. Plan in Advance

Camping with an ATV can pose a few more kinks than a normal camping trip. Because of this, it is important to plan a little more extensively. Have a map on hand so that you can easily tell where you are going and to help you get back on track should you lose your way. As you would get your car or SUV inspected before a long road trip, the same needs to be done for your ATV. And with any planned vacation, always have a back-up plan. No matter how hard you try to prepare, things happen!

2. Pack Smart:

Taking only your ATV means you will need to pack only the essential items. Prioritizing your packing list will make carrying a limited amount of gear and supplies much easier. So, what are the must-haves for an ATV camping trip?

  • Safe equipment
  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Clothing
  • Weather specific gear
  • Food
  • Cooking equipment
  • Tools

3. ATV Top-Shelf Rack:

The Top-Shelf can carry anything from boats to lumber to camping gear. With all of its accessories, you can go anywhere, do anything, and bring whatever you want with you. It is great for hauling lumber and supplies around your farm, carrying your camping gear to the top of the mountain, hauling kayaks from the hard to reach river banks, or anything else you can think of. Add-ons allow you to convert your ATV into a hunting blind, barbwire winder or boom wench. All this can be done while toting your gun, bow, or shovel with the secure bracket.

4. Pack Simple Meals:

Bring simple meals that can easily be cooked over a fire or that require no cooking or refrigeration such as freeze-dried meals, instant oatmeal, granola bars, and canned goods. All of these produce nothing to clean up after and they all cook up quickly with boiling water.

5. Focus on the Beauty:

There will be moments when you miss the conveniences of your usual camping equipment but, ignore the inconveniences and focus on the beauty of the scenery. To fully understand and embrace your surroundings, take time to get off your ATV and explore by foot.

Getting a group together on a camping trip with just an ATV can help build lasting memories. If done right, they can be a huge adventure and they may become your go-to camping style after a few practice runs. Above all else, when going camping, be aware of your surroundings and be safe!

Amazing Camping Tips and Tricks

Want to make the next camping trip really enjoyable and impress your campmates with your incredible knowledge of outdoor tricks? Here are some amazing snippets of useful tips that will make them wonder how you acquired such information. A warning though: you have to swear to keep these things secret. Like a magician, you never reveal your sources.

– Rub liquid soap on the outside of pots and pans. The black soot will come right off after cooking over an open fire.

-Keep the bottom of your pots that you use over the open fire clean by wrapping them in tinfoil.

– Spray flies or bees with hairspray and watch them run for cover

-Spray your garbage and trash with ammonia to keep animals away.

-Sleep naked in your sleeping bag. It will reflect your body heat back to you

-Use baking soda to rid your clothes and hands of cooking odors so the bears won’t smell food on you.

– Take some warmth from the campfire or stove to bed. Keep a pot of hot water simmering on the campfire and when you turn in fill up water bottles and place them in your sleeping bag.

-Buy orange juice in plastic bags and freeze it so it can be used instead of ice in the cooler. Then,when it thaws out you have refreshing cold juice for later.

-Take a headlamp, instead of a flashlight,so your hands are free

– When finished eating an orange, wipe exposed skin with the inside of the peel. Insects will stay far away from you.

-To cut down on cooking time of baked potatoes, start the potatoes in your microwave and bake till half done before you leave. Wrap them in aluminum foil and toss in the cooler until yo need them.

-Old shower curtains make great ground tarps to pitch your tent on.

-Waterproof matches by dipping them in nail polish.

-Waterproof matches by dipping in melted paraffin.

-To Dry wet socks, sleep with them around your middle. Your body heat during the night and your warm sleeping bag will dry them by morning.

– Whenever you leave camp always have a watch, a whistle, a cell phone, a flashlight and a knife with you in case of emergency.

-Bottles with sticky contents (corn syrup, honey, maple syrup) can get harder to open so before using the bottle for the first time, wipe the threads with a light coating of cooking oil. The lid will never stick and won’t be difficult to open or you can wrap a small bit of plastic over the bottle opening after you open it.

-To keep warmer at night wear a hat to sleep in. You lose 80% of your heat heat through your head.

-Use glow sticks for a bit of soft light at night.

– To hang a lantern, get those lightweight metal rods that are used for hanging plants and stick them in the ground.

5 Awesome Fall Camping Tips To Make Your Trip More Enjoyable

Many campers love to schedule their trips during autumn season. It’s no surprise though – with the cool weather and the breath-taking fall foliage, you’ll definitely want to be outdoors. There are plenty of fun activities you can enjoy during your fall camping trip. Whether you’ll be camping solo, with family or your camping buddies, autumn season offers numerous options to make your outdoor adventure more fun!

Follow these 5 awesome fall camping tips to make your trip more memorable:

Prepare for the cool weather

Even though summer just ended, you should be prepared for cool weather. Autumn weather is very unpredictable – it could be hot and sunny during the day, but very cold once the sun goes down. You wouldn’t want your trip to be ruined because you keep waking up in the wee hours of the morning cold and shivering.

That’s why you need to come prepared – pack layers of clothing and be ready for a variety of conditions. Make sure your tent and sleeping bag can keep up with the cold, too!

Schedule your cooking times

An important thing to keep in mind is that the days are shorter during cool seasons and more importantly, food takes longer to cook when the weather is cold. Schedule your cooking times accordingly to ensure that you enjoy your mealtimes – be sure you cook dinner and clean up before the sun goes down!

Be bear-aware

Any camper knows that taking safety precautions against bears and other wildlife is always a must, but be extra careful during fall season. Wildlife become more active around this time looking for and stocking up on food as winter nears.

Keep your food in tight, sealed containers away from your tent and make sure you properly dispose of your garbage.

Go Apple or Pumpkin Picking

There are numerous apple orchards in the country and many are near campsites. If you’re lucky enough to have one near your chosen campsite, consider apple picking during the day. To get even more in the spirit of autumn, you can also opt to go pumpkin picking. You can also bring your own pumpkins to carve around the campfire! The kids will love it!

Collect Leaves

Fall foliage is breath-taking with beautiful hues of red, orange and yellow. This makes leaf collecting a great camping activity during the autumn season! Collect different colors, sizes and shapes and place them on a scrapbook as memorabilia.

Follow these fall camping tips to make your outdoor trip more memorable!

5 Essential Camping Tips and Tricks For First-Timers

Planning a trip with hotel accommodations can be quite a handful, what more if you’re planning a camping trip for the first time? It may seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry – with the right approach, the entire trip, from start to finish, will be smooth-sailing. Just remember to enjoy yourself, because it’s not going to be the last.

Here are 5 essential camping tips and tricks for first-timers:

Do as much research as you can beforehand

When choosing your camp site, it is vital that you learn everything about it. Do you need to book in advance? Do they allow pets? Do they have space for camper vans or just tents? What amenities do they offer? It is most ideal to check their website and make a phone call to make sure that all your inquiries are properly answered. It is also a good idea to check out online reviews.

Observe the weather

Check the weather forecasts frequently in the days leading up to your trip. You don’t just want to assume that the weather will be good, plan out your itinerary for the day and find out you can’t do any of it because of the rain. Weather is unpredictable so it’s best to pack extra blankets, more clothing and some rain gear. Also plan out doable activities that can be enjoyed in any type of weather.

Make a check list of essential things to bring

Don’t worry about over packing, it’s your first time after all. You’ll learn how to pack light as your camping experience grows. In the meantime, stick to a check list. Apart from camping gear, food and water, don’t forget important things like toiletries, utensils, medicines etc. Always bring extra everything. Experts also advise trying your gear at home first to make sure everything works fine.

Prepare for the long drive

Aside from the camp grounds, you’ll also be spending a lot of time in the car on your way. It doesn’t have to be a drag, it can also be an enjoyable time. Prepare your favourite music, play games in the car, have food and snacks ready.

Enjoy yourself

The most important thing is to enjoy camping. Don’t stick to a strict itinerary – go with the flow. Things are unpredictable outdoors and you’d just get disappointed if things didn’t go as planned.

These essential camping tips and tricks are ideal for beginners such as yourself!