An Organized Tent

It can be difficult to stay organized even in a small tent like this one.
This is what my first tent looked like, only mine was bright orange. Barely fit a single sleeping bag. I loved it.

Do you need help to organize your tent? The first time I went camping, I had no problem with keeping an organized tent. I slept in one of those tiny, orange pup-tents that barely fit a twin-sized mattress and sleeping bag. All my clothing and toiletries fit into a backpack. The only shoes I had were the ones on my feet. It was high summer, so I didn’t take a jacket. There was a space at one end of the air mattress that the backpack fit into, with no room for anything else. Perfect.

Now, decades later, I sleep in an instant-up tent they say is made for ten but is merely comfortable for me. I have a queen-sized mattress and sleeping bag, a folding table and chair, and a Luggable Loo in one corner for the middle of the night. My tent has enough room for my iPad, my camera bag, my gym bag and my backpack, both full; it also has a place for me to put my shoes, hiking boots and laundry bag. With all this space, you would think staying organized wouldn’t be a problem. But it is, unless I follow these rules:

1.  Contain, contain, contain.

Especially your clothes!  When you’re out camping, it’s easy to just throw your stuff anywhere because you’re not sure where to put it or can’t be bothered to stuff it back in your duffle bag, but that is disastrous.  I carry, now, a cheapo tote that has plastic grocery bags in it–the ones they pack your groceries in at the store. Don’t get a new tote or gym bag, even–go to the second-hand store and buy one with a working zipper that doesn’t look too beat up. Wet clothes goes in one plastic grocery bag, dirty clothes another, maybe  muddy shoes in another. It all goes into the cheapo tote bag. This keeps your tent clear of clothing, and makes it easier to pack up when you’re ready to go home.

2. A side table.

Depending on the tent you’re in, this could be a folding storage box you brought camping supplies in, your folding chair if you don’t have room for a table and chair both, or an actual table. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as it’s a stable, flat surface to lay your glasses, reading material, camera, etc. on and that it’s about the same height as your sleeping area. If your tent has gear pockets use them too, but a side table will enable you to put small items within easy reach, and they won’t get lost, kicked aside or stepped on. You would be amazed how hard it can be to find your keys when they are mixed up in a sleeping bag/liner/deflating mattress (this is experience speaking here).

3. Organize by use.

Keep items organized by their use. Toiletries get packed in with towels, face cloth, mirror and makeup. Underwear, socks and long underwear are put together in the same spot in your tote. Depending on how long you are staying at the camp site, keep your jeans, tee shirts, over shirts, etc. packed and stacked together in your tote. Larger gym totes generally have outside pockets. Use these for extraneous gear–flashlight, small personal medicine kit (in case you need anti-heartburn liquid or analgesics at midnight), an unbreakable eyeglasses case, etc. If you like to write or text, you can keep your writing or electronic supplies there too. When you know all your stuff for a particular activity is in one place, you won’t tear your gear apart looking for it.

4. bags in bags in bags.

Ziploc bags, all sizes, is the best tip I can give you. Place your makeup in a ziploc bag and pack it. Place your toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash in a ziploc bag and pack it. Put your solar charger, phone and iPad in one. Your socks in one. Your hairbrush, comb, and hair accessories in one. Put your soap, shampoo, cloth and towel in one. Ad infinitum. If you have them packed like that, you can just reach in and grab a bag before you head for the river, lake or camp showers. Not only that, but if a wet disaster happens, like rain or flooding, your important stuff stays dry. And as was mentioned before, you’re not rummaging around in your bigger bags looking for certain items, and messing everything up in the process.

5. A couple of little tools make it easier.

Pack with your stuff the following things to stay organized:

  • A small dustpan and whisk
  • A damp, bleachy cleaning cloth in a (yes) ziploc bag, or wipes
  • Extra grocery bags for garbage or miscellaneous things
  • Some extra, smaller bungee cords (sometimes that tent or sleeping bag or air mattress just won’t fold up as tight as it should)
  • A small emergency repair kit for your air mattress. Include duct tape for other emergencies.

one last list of tips to stay organized:

  1. A large mat outside your tent entrance helps to keep the dirt, leaves, pine needles etc. outside where they belong. Shake it out every day.
  2. If you have a luggable loo in your tent, carry all the supplies for it in the bucket part for transport. Pack toilet paper, hand sanitizer, biodegradable deoderizer that also helps break down sewage, and a small bottle of earth-friendly disinfectant for cleaning it out at the end of the trip. Place it all in the bucket. Take it out of the bucket when you set it up for use in your tent. If you put it all in a (yes again) large ziploc bag before stuffing it in the bucket, it will make it easier to take out and put in, and contain in the tent.
  3. Some people have found a hanging organizer to be handy for inside their tent; I never could see the sense in it.  For me it was just one extra thing to pack. It never held what I wanted it to hold without it looking messy in and of itself. Depending on your gear and tent, though, it may be just the thing for you. You can get them at second-hand stores or dollar stores if you want to give them a try.
  4. Make your bed in the morning. Shocking how tidy this makes a tent, and how good you feel about going inside your tent when you do. Not kidding. Plus it is then a handy surface to lay things out on when you’re packing for a hike or whatever.

Any organization tips you have that you want to share for keeping your tent clear of clutter or mess?  Share them in the comments below!

 

Camping Comfort Food–5 Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Chocolate cheesecake pie
5-Chocolate Cheesecake Pie! You can have a decadent chocolate pie, made at the camp site, with very little fuss.

Of all the comfort foods out there, chocolate consistently figures in the top ten. This is hardly surprising, considering the variety of things you can make with it. So Chocolate Cheesecake Pie was something we wanted to share with you for your next camping trip.

Why “5 Chocolate Cheesecake Pie”? Because you start with a chocolate crumb crust, pour in a layer of chocolate cheese cake, top it with another layer of dark chocolate pie filling, top it with chocolate whipped topping, and finish it all off with shavings of very good 60% dark chocolate. This pie is delicious, rich, satisfying, and easy to make! You can make it at home and take it with you, or make it at the camp site.  It’s up to you. This is the third recipe in our Camping Comfort Food series; Camping Mac n’ Cheese was our first one (you make it all in one pot), and last month’s was Low-Carb Zucchini Enchiladas (you would be shocked at how easy they are to make!)

5-Chocolate Cheesecake Pie
chocolate pie ingredients
It doesn’t take many ingredients to make a chocolate pie at the camp site.

Cook first package of pie filling according to directions. Set aside for 15 minutes, or until no longer hot (can be warm). Mix in softened cream cheese. (If cream cheese seems a bit hard, place in a ziploc bag, seal it, and put in water that is hot not boiling, for about ten minutes.) Blend with a spoon or wire whisk.  When it’s well blended, pour into graham cracker crust. Set aside.

In a clean pot, make the dark chocolate pie filling. (You can use chocolate pudding and melt a dark chocolate chocolate bar in it when cooking, if you like). When filling is done, pour over chocolate cream cheese layer. Cover, cool and then chill by placing in a cooler for a few hours or overnight. When ready to serve, take 2 cups of whipped topping and mix in 2 tablespoons sifted cocoa. Once well mixed, top pie with it. Take your good dark chocolate and shave chocolate over pie with a vegetable peeler. Serve.

Camping Comfort Food–Low-Carb Zucchini Chicken Enchiladas

zucchini enchiladas
You want to eat these incredible zucchini enchiladas, I’m promising you.

Hi! Welcome to the second entry in Camping Comfort Food. You can find the first one, One Pot Camping Mac n’ Cheese, by clicking here. This week’s recipe is amazing! It’s extremely low-carb, because it uses zucchini strips instead of tortillas. Generally to my way of thinking, you can’t put “low-carb” and “comfort food” in the same sentence unless you’re talking about total opposites, but this one’s different. It’s simple enough to prepare (though messy but we’ll get to that) and loaded with yummy flavor! The chicken enchilada filling is rolled up in overlapping zucchini strips, and topped with cheese, then baked. We also give an alternate recipe, using the same ingredients as a casserole.  Make it at home and take it to the camp site, or make it and bake it in a Dutch oven. Either way, the moment you taste it, you’ll see why it’s listed under comfort food. Not even kidding a little bit.

Zucchini Enchiladas
  • 2 large zucchinis
  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 3 cups (375 ml or 24 oz.) red enchilada sauce (reserve 1 cup)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 cups (8 oz. or 200 gr.) shredded Montery Jack cheese
  • 2 cups sour cream or Balkan-style plain yogurt (topping)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (topping)
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced (optional, for topping)

Before Starting:

  1. If you are making this at the campsite, splurge on a bag of pre-shredded cheese. It makes things so much easier, and you can use the rest of it to top baked potatoes or chili, mix into dips, or blend in with eggs. Try not to think of the price.
  2. If you are having trouble rolling up the three strips of overlapping
    Zucchini strips
    Overlap all three strips or lay two side-by-side and the third in the center. Makes rolling easier.

    zucchini, instead of overlapping one after the other, lay two strips side by side and the third strip over the center. This keeps the strips from separating quite as much, and you’re covering it with cheese anyway.

  3. Rolling the strips gives you the distinct impression you’re eating enchiladas. But if you use the casserole method mentioned below, you don’t suffer at all in the taste department!
A Brief Note About Enchiladas And Dutch Ovens:
  1. Enchiladas only use enchilada sauce, onions, Mexican cheese and corn tortillas.  But feel free to experiment, since you’re already changing the tortillas out for zucchini. A shredded cheese mix is wonderful, and I promise you, no matter how many people turn over in their graves, aged cheddar and/or mozzarella is spectacular on it.
  2. If you are making this at the camp site (enchiladas or casserole style), make sure your baking pan fits inside your Dutch oven. If you intend to cook it directly in the oven without a pan, make certain your oven
    zucchini enchilada mix in pan
    Lay zucchini in pan, then spread chicken enchilada mix over top.

    doesn’t have too much heat underneath. Have 24 briquettes–16 on top and 8 on the bottom, baking pan or no. This will give you an inside heat of about 375°F for about 15-45 minutes, depending on the outdoor temperature, wind, etc. Fifteen minutes is probably fine, since the enchiladas are cooked except for the zucchini, and that vegetable is lovely and mild even when it’s raw, so just heated through is nearly perfect. It cooks great, too, so cooking it longer won’t ruin it by any means.

  3. These are wonderful with avocado slices! Peel and slice the avocado, placing it on one side of the dish or directly on top of the enchiladas or casserole, just before serving.
Make it:

Fry finely chopped onion in some butter or coconut oil or other fat. Once the onion is translucent, add the cooked, shredded chicken. Stir until blended and then add all but the reserved cup of the enchilada sauce. Stir, simmering, for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

Wash zucchini thoroughly, then cut off ends. Slice lengthwise in half if zucchini is 6″ or more in diameter. Using a Y-vegetable peeler, a mandolin slicer, or vegetable peeler capable of peeling wide vegetables, peel long strips of zucchini until the zucchini is used up.

On a clean surface, overlap three strips of zucchini. Place a tablespoonful or so of chicken mixture on the end of the three overlapping strips, and carefully roll up. The mix has a tendency to fall out either side; just keep shoving it in and roll, then place the rolled zucchini enchilada in a pan or directly in your dutch oven. Place coals on top and on bottom, and wait at least 15 minutes before checking. When enchiladas or casserole is hot and steaming, remove, drizzle with sour cream or Balkan-style plain yogurt and cilantro, and serve.

Or You Can Make It This Way:
Enchilada casserole
Top enchilada chicken mix with another layer of zucchini, then pour enchilada sauce over all. Finish by adding a layer of shredded cheese and bake.

Casserole Style:  Take a 13″ x 9″ (or two 8×8″ pans if fitting into a Dutch oven) casserole dish, grease, and lay 1/4″ zucchini strips in the bottom. Spread chicken mixture evenly over strips. Top with more zucchini slices. Pour enchilada sauce over and finish by spreading a layer of shredded cheese on top. Bake in a 375°F oven or Dutch oven using instructions for enchilada style, for at least fifteen minutes. Top with sour cream or yogurt and fresh cilantro, and serve. Serves 4-8.

I really hope you like this recipe; I love it, and it has become a regular meal at my house. For me, it’s low on gluten and super healthy, for my family, it just plain tastes delicious. Let me know if you tried it, what changes you made if any, and if you liked it as much as we do!

 

 

 

10 Top Camping Blogs

campers
You can’t ever have too much information about camping

I write a camping blog because I love camping. I love it! It stands to reason, then, that I would love anything related to camping—including other camping blogs. There are tons of them out there, but it’s hard to distinguish between blogs that just want you to come to their site to buy products, blogs that are defunct, and blogs that actually have something concrete to say or teach.
Below are ten really good blogs about camping that I frequent. You might notice a conspicuous absence of hiking blogs. That will be an upcoming post. For now—blogs that focus on the camping experience:

#1—50 Campfires

50 Campfires is an online camping magazine. There is a good reason it has, as its tagline, “The Camping Authority”. This extremely interesting website has everything—camping tips, recipes, gear reviews and more. It focuses on camping throughout the U.S. and really should be checked out. Great resources.

#2—Roaming Miles For Smiles

This great little blog has wonderful information especially for RVers. Their tagline is “It’s the journey, not the destination”, and boy do they deliver. You learn about money management, different travel spots throughout the U.S., insights into the RV life. Extremely readable, this blog will inspire you and help you live a mobile life. Follow them on Twitter: @RoamingSmiles .

#3—Sue’s Outdoor Crew

Sue’s website has been around for a while, but this year she’s kicked it into high gear with her posts. Focusing on water adventure (canoeing/fishing) and the camping experiences that result, her subjects range from how to pack a food barrel to quinzee building (a pretty entertaining hands-on experience; once I finished reading it I wanted winter to be here so I could try it!). On Twitter, you can follow this blog at @sue_squared . 

#4—Camping For Women

What a great idea for a blog! Camping For Women is a global resource guide for women who love to camp. It addresses issues unique to a woman’s camping experience, from tips and trends to tricky things like camping alone, kids and hygiene when camping. Bookmark this page, I’m telling you.

#5—Man Camping

In a spirit of fairness (and also because it’s a great blog), we bring you the opposite side of the gender experience with Man Camping. I love its tagline—“Paddle far, push your limits, bring booze”. They deal with “The lost art of trekking through the wilderness like a man!”—Trust me, women will love this site as well.

#6—Camping For Foodies

This blog is on a mission to encourage people to live in the moment and enjoy nature. Their site is loaded, I mean loaded, with recipes and cooking techniques you can use when camping. They also have reviews and tips for tent and RV camping, and kid-oriented activities for families.

#7—Snowy’s Blog

Not many people in North America know of Snowy’s Blog, and they should. It’s a popular camping store in Australia, and the blog is loaded with over 300 articles of first-hand advice, ideas and reviews from the staff for hiking, camping and travel adventures. I tried to stay away from businesses that have blogs. I realize that you can find them without help. But this one bears looking into—it’s advice from personal experience.

#8—The Outdoor Adventure

The Outdoor Adventure is here because, in addition to being experience- and information-heavy, the blog is also located in British Columbia, a personal favorite camping land of mine (okay, okay—because I live here. But it’s really camping-oriented!) This family believes in getting out and adventuring, whether on a tight budget, have kids, or limited time. They focus on travelling light and on the experience.

#9—Beyond The Tent

What a great blog this is! It has a lot of info, well organized, for the camping family. How-to posts, recipes, gear and more, this blog is great for camping in the U.S. in state parks, national parks, and camp grounds. They even give you a free ebook for subscribing! (Yes, yes, I know; my freebie is coming, and I’ll send it to all my current subscribers as well so no one misses out.)

#10—Camping With Style

No proper camping blog list would be complete without this very professional and info-rich website. Its emphasis is on getting outdoors and having (or increasing) an active outdoor lifestyle. It’s loaded with news, reviews, festival and family camping, competitions and places you can stay in the U.K. So worth checking out!

Do You Have An Informative Camping Blog?

If so, just drop me a line and let me know—I give you a visit and leave a comment, and add you to this list! If you have a favorite camping blog I’ve missed, drop a line as well. When it comes to camping, you can’t have too many resources for getting outside and enjoying yourself in a tent!

 

Your Camp Kitchen–Buttermilk Salad Dressing

three types of buttermilk salad dressiing.
Left to right: Suggestions for buttermilk salad dressing: Avocado, Lemon-Dijon with Cilantro, and in front, Parmesan Feta.

On the last Wednesday of every month, we’ll be introducing recipes, ideas and techniques for the camp kitchen that will elevate your food from ordinary camping fare to food that is out of this world! This month, Your Camp Kitchen would like to introduce Buttermilk Salad Dressing.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s not only cheaper to make, but it’s tastier, too. You can make it at home and bring it to the site, or make it at camp. And the recipe is spectacularly versatile. Once you have the dressing made, you can add anything you like to it. Blend an avocado into it. Crumble some feta cheese. Add some Dijon mustard and grated Parmesan. Your creamy taste sensation is limited only by the imagination. Try mincing some dill pickle in and add a 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill. Really, anything goes. Your salad–and your camping companions–will thank you.

Buttermilk Salad Dressing
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (we find Balkan yogurt great because of its creaminess and slight tartness)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic (1 clove)
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon each)

Place ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour into a bottle or simply spoon from bowl on to salad. If dressing is too thick for your taste, just dilute with a little more buttermilk.

In addition to the suggestions in the paragraph before the recipe, here are a couple more ideas:

Ranch:  Add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill, 1 tablespoon minced chives, and 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard.

Creamy Russian:   Add 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 teaspoon onion salt.

Roasted Red Pepper:  1/2 cup roasted red pepper, minced; 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

Spicy Mexican:  1/4 cup hot chili-garlic sauce (a good substitute is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce), the juice from one lime, 1/4 teaspoon extra salt.

This dressing can be used on other things as well. Keep it thicker for burger toppings or to jazz up your baked potato. Add some to scrambled eggs, or drizzle over a casserole. This dressing is a great basic to add some wow to your camp cooking!

Next Wednesday we’ll be doing another camp comfort food. Stay tuned!

 

Protect Yourself During Hunting Season

Gun set up for hunting season
Are you safe during hunting season?

Something you need to think about right now is how to protect yourself during hunting season. As a hunter, camper, hiker, or adventurer, hunting season is well upon us. With that adventurous time comes great stories around a camp fire, and tales that get taller with the passing years. Each year, though, there are other stories–news stories of accidental shootings, animal attacks, and the consequences of insect bites from problem bugs like ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. How do we protect ourselves if we are hikers? Campers? Other hunters? Here’s a quick, common-sense run-down on what to do.

protect yourself from hunters.

If you are a hiker or camper that doesn’t hunt, you may be concerned about heading out into the wilderness for a little bush camping or hiking during hunting season. Most hunters are extremely aware of the dangers that accidental encounters can pose. For the most part, they are out to get food for their families, enjoy the great outdoors, and connect with nature in a way that is very unique and personal to each one.

So how do you co-exist in a way that keeps you both safe and happy?

  • Be aware of what hunting season means in the area you will camp or hike in.  This means knowing whether or not hunting is even allowed in that area, what the animals are that are being hunted, and when the hunting season is open and finished for that area. Remember that just because you are in a provincial or national park, it doesn’t automatically make you safe. Some parks allow hunting, some don’t. Check and be sure.
  • Wear a blaze-orange-colored vest or hat (or some other item) to make you very visible to hunters.  Even bright-colored clothes work. Stay away from white and earth tones, and any color that might be confused with the animal in question (such as blue and red during turkey season).
  • Make noise! Like warning off bears, shouting, loud talking and whistling will help alert hunters that you are, in fact, a walking, talking human being, and not this season’s back strap on the  barbie.
  • It’s not just you. If you go hiking or camping with your dog, invest in one of those bright-orange blazers for pup, as well. You can find a selection here.

Protect yourself from moose and deer.

There are usually four things that prompt a moose or deer to attack: 1) Mothers protecting fawns, 2)mating season, 3)territorial control, and 4) high population.

  • Cervidae (moose, elk, caribou and deer, among others) can get bat-poop crazy. They have been known to do things that defy logic, such as attacking already dead “rivals” (and if you don’t believe me watch this YouTube video), lawnmowers, gardeners, hikers and the like. Agitation is the key. If they are agitated, for whatever reason, you can rightfully assume they will attack. So–
  • Do not spray your body or anything else near you with elk/deer scent. 
  • If you encounter a deer, moose, elk, caribou or any other cervidae in the wilderness, watch its body language. Stomping and huffing is a clear signal to back away slowly and put something between you and it, such as a tree or large rock or outcropping. Wave your arms and make loud noises (but not for moose; see below) as you back away. Do not turn your back.
  • If it attacks, climb a tree if there’s time. Curl up in a fetal position if there isn’t. If it won’t stop attacking you, an extreme solution is to grab the antlers and wrestling it to the ground, but this is rare and dangerous.
  • For Moose, you need to talk to them softly, not loudly, while slowly backing away. Like you are trying to calm them down. Don’t panic if they make a few bluff charges. Just keep backing away, hands in the air, speaking to them as if they were are suicide bomber who’s not sure they want to kill themselves.

protect yourself from bugs.

The main problem bugs during hunting season are ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. Some areas don’t have this problem at all; others have a brief storm of them before colder winter sets in and solves the problem, particularly in North America.

  • Treat hunting season like it’s tick season. Avoid tall, grassy areas where you can, wear long-sleeved, long-legged clothing with boots, and treat your gear and clothing with permethrin, which kills ticks.
  • Walk in the center of trails, to avoid ticks on grassy stalks.
  • Be aware that ticks may drop off recently killed animals. If you’re a hunter, when you dress or transport animals, know that ticks are looking for a new host.
  • Chigger bites are most common in the spring and fall months. They are very tiny members of the arachnid family that live in tall weeds and grass. Wear long sleeves, and long pants. Add insect repellent to the tops of your boots, shirt neck, cuffs, and your waistband.

Turkeys hunters?

Yes, turkey hunters. They are a whole ‘nother situation to protect yourself against. These basic rules also work for hunters of other flying creatures and tree-born animals:

  • Make human sounds. Most turkey hunters are focussed on the blue and red colors, and the gobbling and wing sounds turkeys make. But don’t assume they will recognize you, even with bright clothing. Sing a song, yell, shout; make any sound absolutely different from that of a turkey. Play your iPod!
  • A Note About Etiquette: If you find yourself hiking or camping in an area that hunters are allowed to hunt in, and you have identified yourself as a hiker or camper to them, don’t make noise that unnecessarily disturbs wildlife. In that area, they have the right to hunt.

hunters vs. hunters.

These safety tips can keep hunters safe from what they are hunting, and from each other, and from themselves:

  • Take a hunter education course and get certified, no matter where you are. Since these courses have been introduced in the last 50 years or so, hunter-related injuries have decreased dramatically. Even if it’s not mandatory, do the responsible thing and take this course.  It teaches you ways to be responsible in the wild.
  • You need to treat every gun and bow as if it was loaded.
  • Don’t point at anything you don’t intend to shoot, even if you know your weapon isn’t loaded.
  • Wait until the game is in your sights and you are ready to shoot before you put your finger on the trigger.
  • Don’t just focus on the game you are going to shoot–check beyond the game and make sure nothing is there that you don’t want dead.

There are many more rules that make your hunting, hiking or camping trip safe during hunting season, but if you follow the rules outlined above, your time in the wilderness will be a lot safer. Most important of all–you’ll come home safe and sound, with a lot of great, great memories!

 

We Have A Brand-New Facebook Page!

camp site
This is the photo we chose to feature on our new page. It’s from our camp site in Hope, BC

If you visit here regularly, you may have noticed a Facebook widget added to the right of the page recently.  That’s our new Facebook page link, and it’s a great way to keep up with Camping and Hiking Ideas posts, pages, announcements and everyone who loves camping that visits this website! You don’t even have to go to the Facebook page to keep up with any new posts there, either–just scroll down on the FB display on the right of this page.

I was pretty intimidated at first about getting a page up and running. But–

I’m delighted to have figured out how to create that page; it turns out that it was easier than I thought it would be.  Drop in and tell us about your outdoor life. Going camping? Fill us in on the details! Found a great new hiking trail? Let us know! Post your camping, hiking, fishing, wilderness photos! The sky is the limit. Literally; if you have photos or videos about the sky, include it on our Facebook page.

Got a question or request? That’s wonderful–post it anywhere here on this website or on the Facebook page, or both! Our page is on it’s way; it’s a brand-new baby, and as we grow, so will the page. I can hardly wait to see what all of you have to say about your outdoor lives.  It will be a pleasure to interact with you on a more personal level.

It’s going to be great. How could it not be? It will be filled with you people, who like to spend time outside. You’re the best! And do you know why? You’re the best because your door is always open.

Fall Weather’s Coming–Comfort Food Is Here

 

cast iron mac and cheese
Camping Mac n’ Cheese–this is the easiest recipe you will ever find. Plus–delicious!

Camping in the fall is wonderful! You have fewer annoying insects, night comes sooner so you can stargaze, fire bans are off, and people are scarce. You can see all the reasons for fall camping here, but one of the best ones is comfort food.

Welcome to our newest monthly post, Camping Comfort Food. The first week of each month we’ll be posting a new comfort food recipe you can make at the camp site.

Our First Camping Comfort Food recipe is a personal favorite no matter where we are–Macaroni and Cheese. We chose it because it’s not only one of the most popular dishes ever made, but also because of its versatility, both in preparation and in serving.

This recipe can be made in one pot, from beginning to end–no cooking the macaroni separately! You can certainly try it in a Dutch oven, but if you’re unused to cooking over a fire or coals, this does beautifully in a pot on the camp stove (We use a Coleman Instastart; lighting it is just one less thing to worry about. No matches? No problem). Ultra-simple, satisfying, and a favorite of adult and kid alike, this Camping Macaroni and Cheese is sure to become a camping go-to.

Camping macaroni and cheese

  • 4 cups milk (any; 2% or skim is great)
  • 3 cups macaroni, uncooked
  • 4  cups cheddar cheese (you can use pre-grated or grate about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pour milk into a medium saucepan and heat until it is simmering, stirring regularly to prevent scorching on the bottom. Add the macaroni and continue to stir every minute or so, for about 10 minutes. When macaroni is done but still a little firm (it may take a little longer but mine takes ten minutes, stir in the mustard, salt and pepper, then add the cheese. Remove from the heat and stir until cheese is melted and blended into the sauce. The sauce should be nice and thick, if not, add a little more cheese. If it’s too thick, add a little more milk. Serves four.

Notes:

If you have a large crowd, extend your camping macaroni. Steam broccoli and fry some sausages and serve the macaroni on the side.  You can make burgers to go with it.  It can also be a great side to our Pot Ribs recipe.

If there are leftovers, spread the remainder in a rectangular pan or plastic container to set for a couple of hours or overnight. Then, once they’re set, cut them into rectangles about 1 1/2″ x 3″.  Roll them in flour, then dip them into a beaten egg, then roll them in bread crumbs (I use 1 cup panko bread crumbs with 1/3 cup grated parmesan), and deep fry for an amazing lunch or snack! The macaroni and cheese sticks also go great with tomato soup.

deep fried macaroni and cheese sticks
deep-fried mac n’ cheese sticks. Serve them with soup or a dip

If you’re going to serve them without soup, put a tangy dip like ketchup or our fabulous lemony tartar sauce on the side; the sticks are mild and need some livening up.

So that’s our first Camping Comfort Food Recipe! What do you think? Is there any recipe you would especially like to see? Let us know in the comment section below.

 

 

Ten Reasons For Fall Camping

camping in the fall
Peace and quiet, cheaper fees, and better site choice–what could be better?

Not many people think of camping in the fall. That makes it great news for people who love to camp, like you! If you haven’t thought about the autumn months for camping before now, it might be the time to consider it. Chances are, with the fires raging throughout the States and Canada this summer, you may have not really had the chance to go camping.

Below are ten good reasons why you should consider camping in the fall:

1. Cheaper camping fees.

Many camp sites drop their fees to extremely affordable prices some time in September on. One camp site I have my eye on will dropping theirs from $35.00/night to $13.oo/night after October 10. That’s a strong incentive to go camping right there. Go online and check the camp grounds you want to visit to see if they have year-round camping. They’ll inform you of the fees if they do.

2.  It’s quieter.

Less people means more quiet.  It’s just that simple. Most people have other things on their minds in the autumn months–they don’t have the time or the inclination to go out and set up camp. Your sleep is better because of the quiet and the cooler weather, too. Imagine waking up and hearing the wind and birds and river instead of the dog and kids and ATVs. Bliss.

3.  The Photo opps are amazing.

With the leaves changing color the opportunity for really beautiful pictures is almost endless. Grab your camera and get out there. Beauty awaits!  Don’t have a camera? Use your cell phone or iPad. And hey–if you do get those photos, tweet us at @Camping_Ideas. We’d love to see them! Come to think of it, tweet us anyway. We want your feedback, no matter what it is. Tell us how it went, here or on Twitter!

4.  Fire ban is off.

This is a huge plus for me and my family. We love a camp fire, and it’s something we miss when we camp in the summer and the days are hot. This year in B.C. and the south-western U.S. it has been really bad–with the result that campfire bans are nearly everywhere. Once the cooler weather and rainy days hit, the bans stop and we get to have camp fires again! There’s just something about sitting around a fire at night, that makes camping particularly wonderful. If you caught a trout that day, well. It’s just begging to be cooked, isn’t it?

5.  Soup, stew, and hot food weather is here.

Soups and stews are easy to prep, easy to throw together, and one of the simplest things to cook or heat up over an open fire.  Cooler days are awesome for our quick and easy Chili Pot Pie or Fast Turkey Soup. And you really should check out our Mulled Dr. Pepper for weirdly wonderful hot drink! . Food when camping is always good. Hot food when camping on a cool day is awesome. We also have lots of recipes in our recipe index–check it out for inspiration!

6.  Ice in coolers last longer.

It’s such a time and money saver when the ice in your coolers doesn’t melt as fast.  (If you really want to save money on ice, camp in the winter. The whole outdoors becomes your refrigerator. But that’s another story, and one best read about here. We’re talking about fall camping right now.) Fellow campers in your group won’t raid the cooler for ice for their drinks quite so often either–hot chocolate is much nicer on a cool day than a cold drink. Except maybe beer.

7.  Better camp site choices.

It follows, doesn’t it? If fewer people camp in the fall, your camping site options increase. You can get the one that’s always gone when you normally try and reserve a spot. Pick a date, reserve online, and you’re good to go.

8.  It’s an early stress break from getting back into the rat race.

Vacation is over, the kids have started school, everything is winterized, and you’re exhausted. This is the time of year when people often need a break from gearing up for regular life, and don’t take it. Do yourself and your family a favor and go camping one weekend. It’ll help reset those stress levels a little.

9.  Bird watching.

If bird watching is something you like to do, even casually, doing it while camping in the fall is just the best! Birds are busy getting stuff together for the cold winter months, and many are migrating. Your normally static bird-watching camping area might become dynamic practically overnight. Vagrant birds, that is, birds who stray outside their normal feeding, breeding or migrating areas, are most commonly seen in the fall as well, so you might catch sight of a breed you normally don’t get a chance to observe. Do not forget your bird book and camera! If you don’t have a camera already, here’s a toy I am seriously considering buying.(Canadian residents interested in a bird-watching camera, click here.)

10. Activity is more comfortable.

Strenuous activities, such as hiking, climbing or exploring, are more comfortable during the cooler weather. That’s great motivation for anyone to get more active during a time when most people are at home and getting into the habit of couch-potato-ing. Exercise is one of the most overlooked and effective treatments for depression and anxiety. So for the sake of your mental health, camp in the fall!

 

Things Campers Hate The Most

angry woman
What camping pet peeve makes steam come out of your ears?

The world of camping is an odd one. It is populated by two distinct groups–the genuine campers and the party people who just want to make noise and mess where the police won’t find them. There are varying degrees of each. The party people have peeves too, I’m sure. But I really don’t care about them. I do care about campers.

I decided to ask everyone I knew or tweeted what their pet camping peeve was, and this was the result:

noise–#1 most mentioned pet peeve.

This actually fell into a few categories.  For some it was loud music. For others (quite a few others) it was generators that went all night. A close third was a continually barking dog. Rounding out the reasons was chainsaws and ATVs.

This deserves to be number one. It’s inconsiderate, and it takes away one of the foremost reasons for camping–peace and quiet. Sometimes people have simply gone to the noise-polluter and asked them to stop, and sometimes that works.  Mostly, though, they won’t unless an authority of some kind puts a stop to it.

So–complain to the camp ground supervisor. Phone the police. Get a number of like-minded camping neighbors together and go and respectfully request a cease and desist. Suggest certain times when the noise is allowable. None of these suggestions are very effective, but they do work from time to time. If you are at a paid-for camp site, leave a polite but strongly-worded review on every site you can find if the camp site owners do nothing to help you. If you’re bush camping, try and camp during the week instead of the weekend, if you can. Noise makers generally prefer the weekend.

packing up to go home (and unpacking)

To my surprise, this was number two on the list of campers’ pet peeves. People hate packing up to leave, and they hate unpacking once they get home.  I don’t like it either, truth be told. You not only have to stop doing something you really enjoy, you have to work like crazy to get the stopping done. It’s so unfair! And then once you get home, there’s all that stuff to clean and tidy up and put away. Unfair! Unfair!

I actually wrote a post about what to do to make it not so horrible.  If you’re interested in a few tricks and tips, click here to read about it. And if you’re camping with a group, make sure everyone contributes in the common-area cleanup.  Taking down the kitchen tent, folding the tables, putting out the fire properly–everything goes a little easier if everyone helps.

Mud in the tent.

Tent among trees
Mats inside and outside the tent will help with mud and mess.

Or pine needles. Or sand. In fact, any outdoor stuff that messes up your tidy tent interior.  Whatever it is that leaves a mess, that’s the stuff campers hate to see tracked in.  One of the great truths about roughing it outside is that it is unbelievably easy to get dirty. The outdoors imposes itself on you and your belongings like dirt on Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen.

It helps if you have a mat both inside and outside your tent door. Keep them both shook out on a daily basis. Make the outdoor one as large as you can comfortably pack.  Even a small tarp, with the edge tipped up so water doesn’t funnel under the tent, can help if you spread it out in front of your tent. But make sure it’s one you don’t mind throwing away–using a tarp as a ground cover to walk on wears it out very fast.

Another thing you can do is keep a dustpan and whisk just inside the tent. If you see any pine needles or dirt  you can just sweep it up and toss it outdoors where it belongs. If you have a vestibule or a tarp that acts as an awning over the front of your tent, put a small stool just outside the opening and remove your shoes before you enter the tent. Keep a set of slippers or tent slip-ons for tent use only if you want. Just don’t forget to bring your boots or sneakers inside before turning in for the night. That way they stay dry and no little creature will take up residence in it.

irresponsible pet owners.

This includes people who won’t shut their dogs up. People who don’t pick up their dogs’ poop. People who allow their dog to pee on your tent (yes that was actually mentioned as having happened. That definitely needs to be mentioned in an online review about that camp site). It’s really remarkable how often these things happen. The problem with this is that it puts a bad light on the majority of pet owners, who are responsible people. Just a couple of bad apples and the whole dang basket is ruined.

Speaking to the pet owners about a barking dog sometimes helps.  The other stuff is different–it generally happens when you’re not around.  If you think the site you’re going to will have a lot of dogs, it might be wise to invest in powdered cayenne pepper and spread it around your site where you think dogs will pee.  I would also keep some pet urine-odor and stain remover with you just in case.

forgetting something.

Oh, yes–how often has that happened with us!  From the can opener to my brother’s tent, forgetting an item can really put a temporary dent in your happiness. Here’s what we’ve learned: Make your first camping trip of the year a “shake-out” camping trip. Go somewhere close to civilization and see if everything is still packed in your gear. If you do forget something, you can replace it easily by going into town. Make a note of it for when you put your gear away. We also keep gear lists taped to the front of our storage bins. If something is missing we put a check mark next to it and replace it as soon as we can.

If you get to your site and your tent is missing, it really, truly isn’t the end of the world. Read about what my brother did when he forgot his tent one weekend by clicking here.

going with a group and everyone taking off to have fun, leaving one or two with no help in setting up camp or tent.

While this may be excusable because of high spirits and excitement that they are finally camping, it can be annoying to see them all run off without checking to see if anyone needs help.

Make certain everyone in the group is set up and the camp site itself is ready to go before deciding on fun. In every circle there is at least one person who is unable to set their tent up by themselves. Either the tent itself is to awkward for one person to set it up, or the person is new to the camping world. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. If your tent is set up and ready to go, check to see who is still setting up. You’ll be surprised at how good it makes you feel to help a fellow camper out.

taking three days’ worth of food and eating it all on day one.

I must admit I have never had this problem. My problem is the exact opposite–I go on a three day trip and take enough food for a week. For twice as many people as are going. My cousin did once, though. We let him look longingly at our steaks for a little while before telling him we had plenty.

About the only thing I can tell you in a case like that is: go camping with people like me. You will never, ever go hungry.

a quick list of the rest of the pet peeves, in descending order.

  • Neighbors who don’t put out their campfire properly
  • Camping slobs in your own group (For what to do about it click here)
  • Hikers who don’t stay on the trail
  • Visitors who overstay their welcome
  • People who help themselves to your booze/snacks/drink/food
  • City folk

So how about you guys? Got a pet camping peeve? I’d love to hear about it! Tell me in the comments section below!