Your Total Solar Eclipse Checklist

Your opportunity to experience a rare total solar eclipse in western North Carolina arrives on Monday, August 21. To make sure you’re prepared and packed for totality, the experts at Frugal Backpacker have assembled this helpful checklist. For more on what to expect, check out Everything You Need to Know About August’s Total Solar Eclipse.

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF version of this checklist.

What to Do Now for the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Select the best location and route for viewing the eclipse based on accessibility, weather forecast, and the time of day the path of totality will pass through the area. Many prime viewing spots require tickets or have a capacity cap in place for the day, so do your homework.
  • Select an alternate location and route. 64,000 tourists are expected to visit the mountains for the eclipse.
  • Book lodging close to your primary viewing location. Hotel rooms, campsites, and cabins are going fast!
  • Build your total solar eclipse viewing kit. (See the bottom of this post for a checklist.)
  • Purchase your eclipse viewing glasses at Diamond Brand Outdoors. We’ve ordered a lot, but they’re going fast!
  • Use an app, website, or book to find out which bright stars and planets you can expect to see during the totality, impressing your friends and kids!

What to Do the Week of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Test all of your equipment by doing a “dry run.” Nothing’s worse than having a faulty camera when the big event gets underway!
  • Pack your total solar eclipse viewing kit and camping kit.
  • Review the eclipse timing and weather forecasts for your primary and alternate viewing locations.

What to Do the Day of the Total Solar Eclipse

  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Leave early for your viewing location.
  • Claim your spot by setting up chairs and viewing equipment, but remember to be a good neighbor so others may enjoy the experience.
  • Test your equipment.
  • Enjoy the day with your friends and family. The time of totality will be brief, but the experience leading up and following the first total solar eclipse in western North Carolina since 1506 will lead to storied memories for years to come.

Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Kit Checklist

  • WNC + NATIONAL PARK MAPS: Cell towers will likely be overloaded, so don’t rely on an app.
  • ECLIPSE VIEWING GLASSES: You must have these for direct solar viewing. They’re inexpensive and available now.
  • HAT: To protect your head from the sun while you wait for the main event.
  • SUNGLASSES: NOT to look at the sun, but to cut down on the glare when you’re looking everywhere else.
  • PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER: Make sure you’ll be able to document the day through photos and videos.
  • CAMPING CHAIRS + TABLES: Get yourself a chance to stake your claim to watch and rest after the excitement!
  • BLANKETS: No matter where you’re watching, blankets keep things cleaner. Bring more than you think you need.
  • COOLER: You’ll likely get to your viewing area hours before the eclipse. Drinks, lunch, and snacks are a must!
  • DRINKWARE + WATER BOTTLES: Insulated cups and tumblers keep your drinks cold (or hot), don’t sweat, and are reusable.
  • HEADLAMP OR FLASHLIGHT: Since you’ll be looking up, this is primarily for emergencies. Use the red setting instead of white.
  • COMPASS: There’s plenty of information online that will tell you exactly where to look as totality begins.
  • CAMERA: This is one of the times you may want a nicer camera than you’ll find on your phone.
  • CELL PHONE: Coverage may be too spotty for weather and GPS, but your clock and camera will still work.
  • WATER: Always stay hydrated, whether the sun is shining or not.
  • SUNSCREEN: Always a good idea when you’ll be outside for any period of time.
  • INSECT REPELLENT: Another good idea anytime you’re heading into the outdoors.
  • OUTDOOR GAMES: Help pass the time and enjoy some relaxation with friends and family.
  • HAMMOCK: If you’ve got space to set up an ENO hammock or WindPouch, laying down is a great way to watch.
  • ELECTRICAL TAPE: Some folks don’t know how to turn off their camera’s flash. Be prepared to help them out.
  • CAMPING KIT (OPTIONAL): Traveling the day before or staying overnight after the eclipse helps avoid traffic and can be fun!
    • TENT
    • SLEEPING BAG FOR EACH CAMPER
    • LANTERN
    • SLEEPING PAD FOR EACH CAMPER
    • PILLOWS
    • TARPS
    • STOVE + FUEL
    • MATCHES
    • FRYING PAN + POT
    • CUTTING BOARD + KNIFE
    • SPONGE, SOAP, + BIN FOR WASHING DISHES
    • PAPER TOWELS
    • FIREWOOD (IF ALLOWED)
    • ROASTING STICKS FOR S’MORES + HOT DOGS
    • BEAR KEG
    • ICE
    • TRASH BAGS
    • FIRST AID KIT
    • CORKSCREW

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4 Tips for Raising Kids Who Love the Outdoors

The struggle is real. With the prevalence of digital entertainment, fewer and fewer kids are spending any significant time outside. Sadly, we’re seeing the results in the form of rising rates of obesity, depression, and anxiety among kids. In addition to lowering health risks, more time outside can help kids improve self esteem, develop a sense of outdoor stewardship, and form healthy habits that will stick with them for life. But raising kids who love the outdoors can be a challenge, and with summer vacation just around the corner, it can be easy to default to indoor entertainment. How can you get your kids away from screens and into the wild?

Make Being Outside a Lifestyle

Getting outdoors doesn’t have to be a huge production. Try doing something simple, like eating dinner outside or going for family walks around the neighborhood, a few times a week. Even taking traditionally indoor recreation, such as art projects, board games, and reading outside can make a huge difference. These small things can help your kids become accustomed to being outside and can be great family bonding experiences.

Make the Outdoors Fun

Choosing outdoor activities that are appropriate for your child’s age, personality, and abilities helps to instill in them a love of the outdoors.

  • Pick a hike with a treat at the end. A couple of our staff favorites include Skinny Dip Falls, a short hike with a great swimming hole at the end and the Carl Sandberg Home, which has several trails of varying difficulty, including a short hike to play with baby goats.
  • Make it a game. If your children crave constant stimulation, challenge them to a scavenger hunt on the trail or in your own back yard. For younger children, have them find items in a variety of colors. Older children may enjoy looking for specific species of animals, bugs, or plants.
  • Involve them in planning. Kids love to feel like their contributions are valued. Younger kids may enjoy assembling trail mix or other simple hiking snacks. While older kids may have fun doing research on local trails and outdoor activities that they’d like to try (Asheville Trails is a great resource).
  • Let them pick their kit. Let’s face it, gear is cool. Equipping your kids with a few essentials, like their own water bottle or daypack, can get them excited about the outdoors, help them develop important outdoor preparation habits, and make them more comfortable. Gearing your kids up doesn’t have to be expensive, there are tons of inexpensive (but still super cool and useful) gadgets available. These can be great incentives to reward setting and reaching goals. A few ideas: hike a set number of miles over the summer to earn a pocket knife, concoct camp meals or trail lunches to earn a stove, or get up early and do a sunrise hike to score a headlamp.

Help Them Build Outdoor Community

Kids want to fit in. Help them find their outdoor tribe by planning outdoor activities that include team work or good causes. Buncombe County Parks & Rec offers a variety of summer and after school outdoor programs that allow kids to explore the outdoors with like minded peers. Older kids can participate in volunteer opportunities that foster a spirit of outdoor stewardship, such as a river clean up project with Mountain True.

Lead by Example

Kids live what they learn. If you are excited about outdoor activities and make healthy outdoor recreation a priority, your kids will likely follow suit.

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3 Tips for the Stargazing Beginner

Photo: Jack Schroeder

Western North Carolina is renowned as a haven of outdoor beauty. Our night skies are no exception; Asheville’s relatively low level of light pollution and easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway make it an ideal spot for seeking fantastic views of the night sky.

If you’re looking to expand your outdoor hobbies, give stargazing a go. It’s a low-key way to enjoy our outdoor paradise, is equally fun solo or with a group, can be enjoyed regardless of your fitness level, and doesn’t require a large investment to try.

Get started frugally. You don’t have to shell out big bucks for a fancy telescope to enjoy stargazing. In fact, you can see objects up to 2.5 million lightyears away without any equipment at all. To get started with minimal investment, purchase a star chart (great options are available for under $20) and head to a dark spot on the Parkway (check out some of our fav spots below). You’ll be surprised at what you can see!

Get help from experts. Most amateur astronomers are enthusiastic about their passion and happy to help new comers. Join one of the group star gazes hosted by Astronomy Club of Asheville or one of the many public events hosted by UNCA at the Lookout Observatory. This can be a great way to learn more about what you’re observing and make connections.

Ready for a better view? You can purchase an excellent pair of binoculars for a much smaller investment than a mediocre telescope and their versatility and ease of operation make them ideal for beginners. Added bonus, they’re a breeze to throw in your pack for incredible views on a nighttime hike.

Great Places to Go:

Blue Ridge Star Park and Observatory– Spruce Pine, NC Recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as a dark-sky place.

Mt. Pisgah Trailhead (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407.6)

Stoney Bald Overlook (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 402.6)

Tanbark Ridge Overlook (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 376.7)

Craggy Dome Overlook (Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 364.1)

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