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The Frugal Guide to Getting Started Stargazing

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 your looking to expand your outdoor hobbies, we recommend giving stargazing a go. It’s a low-key way to enjoy the our outdoor paradise, it 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 up objects up to 2.5 million lightyears away without any equipment at all. To get started with minimal investment, we recommend purchasing a star chart (great options are available for under $20) and heading 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. Think about joining 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 + 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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WNC Trail Triple Crown Challenge

We’ve partnered with our friends at Asheville Trails and Diamond Brand Outdoors for the WNC Trail Triple Crown Challenge.

Visit Frugal Backpacker or any Diamond Brand Outdoors location to check out the awesome new Asheville Trails kiosks with dozens of local trails. We believe the outdoors are for everyone of all abilities, so you’ll find lots of good stuff at the kiosk, like directions and insider tips on easy, moderate, and difficult hikes of varying distance. Find a trail you like, and then snap a picture of the info sheet with your phone. And then visit the Asheville Trails website to get driving directions and more trail info.

Hit any three trails from the displays during April and we’ll give you 20% off up to five items, plus a free Asheville Trails sticker! Just post a pic to Instagram while you’re on the trail, tag both @frugal_backpacker and @ashevilletrails, and use the hashtag #WNC3C.

Once you’ve hiked three of the trails, return to Frugal Backpacker or any Diamond Brand Outdoors location to receive your discount. A team member will take a look a look at your tagged photos — which we’d probably like to share on our feed if you give us permission!

Discount cannot be used for gift cards, boats, or special orders. See store for any other exclusions.

Thanks for Donating Over 200 Coats

asheville coat drive eblen charities diamond brand outdoorsThanks for helping us collect over 200 coats for Eblen Charities. As the lowest temperatures of winter hit the mountains, they’ll make sure they make it to those in our community who need them the most.

During November and December, we joined with Diamond Brand Outdoors and our customers to collect coats, hats, and gloves for the second year in row. Thanks for showing us the great things that can happen when we all join forces to strengthen our community!

If you didn’t get a chance to drop off any items, you can support Eblen Charities with a donation or as a volunteer.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.

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asheville coat drive diamond brand outdoors eblen charities

Crew Essentials: Top Outdoor Gifts for Campers

camden

Camden’s a crew member here at Frugal Backpacker. He shares his top gift ideas for your favorite outdoor enthusiasts.

My favorite hike is Alum Cave in the Smokies. I love it because I helped build that trail and that view is my favorite ever.

Kelty Bestie Blanket
Very light weight, very warm, and easy to clean, this makes a perfect throw blanket. It’s perfectly sized for lounging around the campfire or for warming up with a good book.
$22.95

bestie
ENO has the best design of any straps for any hammock that uses carabiner connectors. Agile but enduring, the ENO Atlas Strap weighs a scant eleven ounces, yet boasts a whopping thirty combined adjustment points.
$29.95
atlas
ENO DoubleNest Hammock
The ENO DoubleNest Hammock makes you want to snuggle. With two-feet of extra width than the SingleNest, the DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. It packs down to the size of a grapefruit and is also machine washable.
$69.95
double
Stanley Adventure Cooler
Stanley is great because the company blends classic style with the lastest technology. This is a great small cooler for bringing your lunch to work or any day adventure.
$40
stanley-adventure
Mountain Hardwear Micro Thermostatic Puff Jacket
Affordable, light weight, and just plain awesome! This  very warm down jacket is perfect for layering. It’s also compactable so it fits easily into a pack.
$105
jacket
Deuter Act Lite 50+10 Pack
A great choice for anyone who is new to backpacking, the adjustable back is great for any trip in the wilderness or travel abroad. Lightweight with a purist yet technical look, this versatile expanding pack lets you comfortably tackle everything.
$189
deuter-act-lite

A $10 Bonus with Gift Card Purchases This Year

We want you to have a great time during the holiday season and welcome you back in 2017. That’s why we’ll be giving you a bonus $10 gear card for every $50 of gift cards you purchase between November 25-December 24, 2016. Your bonus gear cards can be used just like cash on anything in the store from January 1-31, 2017.

Gift cards are a great gift for your favorite adventure partners. They never expire and can be used at Frugal Backpacker or either Diamond Brand Outdoors location. A Frugal Backpacker gift card is the thoughtful gift of new adventures, shared experiences, and outdoor exploration — and they come in a gift envelope with embedded seeds that grow into wildflowers when you plant it. (How cool is that?)

If you have any questions, just ask one of our expert team members. Happy Holidays!

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Get 20% Off During Eblen Charities Coat Drive

Last year, you helped us get over 400 coats to those in our community who need them most. This year, we’ve set a goal of 450 coats for Eblen Charities and you can score a discount for doing good.

November 19-December 24, you’ll receive 20% off an item for bringing in a gently used coat. (There’s a limit of one discount per person during the length of this promotion.) You can drop off a coat at either Diamond Brand location or Frugal Backpacker. You’ll only be able to use the discount on one item, but if you’d like to bring in multiple coats during the drive, that’s awesome! We’re also not allowed to discount certain items like YETI, GoPro, gift cards, and boats.

Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach extends throughout the counties of Western North Carolina and through its numerous programs has helped thousands upon thousand of families each year with medical and emergency assistance through more than 70 programs yearly throughout the region.

Eblen Charities Asheville

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Backpacker Bucks Return November 1-23

We’re bringing Backpacker Bucks back from November 1-23 as a way to thank you for your support throughout the year.

How do Backpacker Bucks work?

We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible. For every $100 in merchandise (before sales tax) you purchase from November 1-23, you’ll get $20 in Backpacker Bucks to redeem like cash in January. This is a great way to get a jump on holiday gifts and treat yourself in the new year!

Can I combine totals from multiple receipts?

Absolutely! All purchases made between November 1-23 count toward your total. Returns can also affect your Backpacker Bucks total, too. Any of our team members will be happy to run through the details.

Can I use Backpacker Bucks at Diamond Brand Outdoors?

They can only be used at Frugal Backpacker. Diamond Brand Outdoors is running the same promotion with Diamond Dollars.

If I purchase gift cards, do I get Backpacker Bucks?

You won’t since gift cards aren’t merchandise. However, jackets, sweaters, vests, shoes, boots, boats, coolers, water bottles, and everything else in the store will lead to Backpacker Bucks.  We’ve got a special gift card promo that will start the day after Thanksgiving.

Can I redeem them for cash?

No. You can spend them like cash on merchandise in January, but they don’t have any cash value.

Our team appreciates each adventurer who walks through our doors. Please see any of us with questions!

Events

Tying Knots

Knot tying is an essential skill for the outdoors. Outdoors expert Sam Roach will lead a hand-on clinic in which you’ll learn basic useful knots for camping, outdoor sports, and everyday use.

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Well-behaved pets and kids with owner on leash are welcome at this free event.

 

En plein air

En plein air, or plein air painting, is a phrase borrowed from the French equivalent meaning “open (in full) air.” It is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors in which a painter reproduces the actual visual conditions seen at the time of the painting. This method contrasts with studio painting or academic rules that might create a predetermined look.

Artist Jack Lantz will show how to prepare for a plein air painting excursion while he creates a painting, making this a great event for outdoor enthusiasts, artists, and those who love to watch art as it’s created.

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Kelty Trunk Show

Kelty was one of the first companies to produce an external-frame backpack designed specifically for civilian use, inventing the aluminum-framed backpack in the process. We salute this trailblazer and take a look at their latest tents, packs, trekking poles, and more.

Be prepared to get truly hands-on as you crawl inside, touch, and explore the summer line. We’ll also have plenty of discounts and giveaways throughout the day.

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Kids and well-behaved pets with owner on leash are welcome at this free event.