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.

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!

 

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!

Our Top Ten Camping Posts

camping tents
What concerns our readers the most?

Popular camping posts is something I’ve been considering for some time now. Camping and Hiking Ideas has been a blog for a couple of years, so when I was looking over archival content it occurred to me that there was a lot of really, really great stuff that maybe our newer readers didn’t know about. So here is a list of our top ten most popular posts, with a link to each one:

1.  The Instant Tent.

Cabin tents are roomier than dome tents, but bulkier and heavier to take camping.

Our most popular post ever was the review of three different family-sized instant tents. It still gets a lot of attention!  I think it’s because people are looking to streamline their camping experience, so that there’s more time for play and less set-up fuss.  This is especially important for families, who have double the work when camping just because they have to take care of kids when doing so.  For a single camper like me, an 8- or 10-man instant tent gives me the ability to set the thing up by myself in about fifteen minutes, with lots of room inside for comfort. A win-win all around.

2.  camping hacks that do not work, and why.

mosquito catcher bottle
This mosquito catcher doesn’t work at all.

Our second-most popular camping post was about camping hacks that don’t work.  I wrote it because I was sick of seeing these hacks all over the internet, trying them and finding out they were useless, for one reason or another. I’m debating a second one, but that’s in the future some time. Knowing what doesn’t work, and why, is often as helpful as knowing what does.

3. The Horror of a good rod.

This was a surprise to me when I looked at popularity.  It’s a post about my new fishing rod and the difference between it and the old beater I’d had for years. For some reason, the information about rods and reels, birds nests and trying to get the dang thing to cast correctly, from a beginner’s point of view, struck a chord with readers.

4. Choosing a chainsaw for camping.

A good chainsaw makes all the difference in the world.

This one didn’t surprise me at all.  It’s an interview with two very experienced chainsaw owners, and what they do to choose and take care of their chainsaws. You can’t find some of their suggestions anywhere else.  It’s good reading; not too long, but packed with usable information about selecting a chainsaw that’s right for a camper. Incidentally, we have a new article coming up where we talk to a gold-level tech who has been with Stihl for 20 years.  Should be fantastic! Check back over the next couple of weeks for that one.

5.  easy camping meals.

Sandwich
Good food is surprisingly easy to make while camping if you have a plan in mind.

This popular camping post garnered a great deal of appreciation from the fact that it began with a number of guidelines for creating and executing delicious meals for camp, without having to necessarily break the bank or depend on instant foods. It then gives you five suggestions each for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with recipe links to each. Not everyone likes to spend hours preparing meals at camp, but they still like to eat well-balanced, appetizing food. This teaches you how.

6. Carny bacon.

Deep-fried bacon and dipping sauce.
Camping Carny Bacon. Hog heaven.

Carny Bacon is a relatively new post, but has it ever taken off!  This top article is huge right now. When I developed this recipe it was with the intention of creating something that was sweet and salty and very self-indulgent. It’s a hit in our family, too–one particular nephew asks me to make it every few days. Because three pieces of bacon makes 12 pieces of carny bacon, it’s kind of frugal, too. Who would have guessed?

7. Dutch oven secrets.

Dutch ovens
Mastering dutch oven cooking is something you will never regret.

For campers, Dutch oven cooking is a revelation.  There’s something wonderful about this camping essential.  The article contains five secrets to successful Dutch oven cooking. Okay, there’s a bonus sixth one, too, but don’t tell anyone I told you. It’s supposed to be a surprise.

8. A Great night’s sleep while camping.

owl
You can sleep great at night camping if you follow the guidelines in this post.

This article contains pretty much all you need to know about getting a great night’s sleep while camping. It was inspired by a comment from a busy (and fatigued) mother who hesitated to camp because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Well mom, (and anyone else who loves a good night’s rest) there you go!

9. Setting up a camp kitchen.

Screen tent
Screen tents are great for setting up camp kitchens in

Setting up a camp kitchen that really works is the result of much trial and error on the part of my family and friends.  We essentially took the best and discarded the rest when it came to making a great camp kitchen. This is the most popular article on setting up a camp kitchen, but if you’re looking for a camp kitchen for a crowd, click on this link.

10. recipes for when there’s no fire.

cherry cream cheese on bagel
A breakfast so good, you won’t wait for no fire as an excuse. Good for you, too.

The article, “What Do You Eat When the Fire Goes Out?” gained some attention, but not like the link in it, which leads to all the recipes for all the menu suggestions in the post.  There are five suggestions each for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, and four suggestions for snacks, all prepared without a fire of any kind. I guess it’s because we’ve had a lot of fire bans this year. Either way, the food is wonderful!

I hope you take a quick look at these articles.  They have a ton of information for new and experienced campers alike. According to my analytics page, the majority of my visitors like them. I hope you do, too.

What To Do About Camping Slobs

litter at campsite
The spoor of jackass campers

Camping slobs–do NOT get me started. I hate it when I try my best to keep the camp organized and half the group drops crap everywhere. Or when I leave my camp kitchen immaculate, go on a hike and come back to food and dirty utensils on every surface. Or when the shovel, axe, chairs or jackets and towels are strewn around the site with no regard for possible rain or tripping accidents? It’s enough to make me double my beer intake.

It sure as heck bothers most people who like a modicum of order. So how do we avoid all that? Here are some ideas:

A place for everything.

One of the most effective preventative measures is literally having a place for everything.  Many times camping items get left in awkward areas because no one is sure where to leave it. If you have a stack of wood near the campfire, create a tool rack for the axe, shovel, hotdog forks and anything fire related. Just drive two sturdy sticks into the ground that are forked at the top end. Place another stick in the forks. Lean the tools up against it.  Rig a tarp so it protects the wood and tools from rain. You have a place for stuff.

If your covered camp kitchen is too small to put all the gear in, do what we do. Place the coolers in a tidy row along once side of the kitchen tent on the outside. That way it’s readily accessible for preparing food but keeps the kitchen area fairly clear of clutter.

Organize a wash station and keep soap, a wash basin, cloth and a towel there. Keep it near the camp stove so heating water is easier. Arrange drinkables on a table with glasses and utensils. Add condiments and sugar, salt and pepper. People can go there for drinks and flavoring throughout the day without getting underfoot. And everything has a specific place!

containers.

You can never have too many containers at a camp site.

Take along two pop-up laundry hampers, the ones you buy at the dollar store that fold down into a flat disc. Put a garbage bag in each of them. One is for garbage you can’t burn, the other is for recyclables. If you still have a slob that insists on leaving cans or bottles on the ground and walking away, direct their attention to the recycle bin.

Boxes that fold flat and open up for use can be great for small things. Fire starter, work gloves, extra tarps, kids toys, or anything else that has a tendency to spread out on a site can be placed in one.

Hang things up–cup hooks screwed into a tree works. So does a belt around a tree trunk with “S” hooks hanging from it. And good old fashioned clothes lines are great for getting things up and at eye level.

Small plastic bins for utensils and little items can be prepacked; just take off the lid, place it on the table, and put the plastic bin on top. At night you can replace the lid, and when you pack up to go home, just put the small bin in the larger kitchen bins you have. Small plastic containers like that keep the mess under control in the kitchen.

signage!

This is something I did a couple of years ago and I’m still wondering why I didn’t think of it sooner.

When you’re at home, invest in a laminator and laminating pouches. Then go sign crazy! Print out signs from your computer and laminate them. You can place them on trees using thumb tacks and tent poles using duct tape. It’s amazing what a sign will do to remind people to keep the area tidy. Some suggestions:

  1. Washing Station (Empty Water From Basin When Done)
  2. Pick Up After Yourself–Bottles and Cans In Here
  3. Get Your Drinks and Snacks Here
  4. Do Not Touch
  5. Please Put All Wet Towels On Line To Dry
  6. Return Tools To This Area When Done
  7. Chairs Go Here When Not In Use
  8. First Aid Kit
  9. Please Ask Chief Cook And Bottle Washer If (S)He Needs Help
  10. Never Leave The Site Without Telling Someone

–The ideas are endless, and they work.

The Final Solution.

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and speak to someone. Most of the time it’s not a problem–family members expect communication lines to be open–but when it’s a friend you’ve invited along it can be tricky. Decide if you will just pick up after them and then never invite them again, or if there is a tactful (very, very tactful) way of speaking to them about the mess they are leaving everywhere. Sometimes you can use humor to diffuse the situation. You need to ask yourself, though, if it’s worth losing a friendship over.  If you don’t do it exactly right, that pal you like enough to invite may never spend time with you again. Sometimes, as mentioned before, you may just decide to pick up after them. Put the onus on yourself if they mention something. “Yes, I’m very picky. I love a tidy camp site.” A worthwhile pal will try to stay tidier; maybe not perfect, but better.

Keeping your camp site clean and organized makes it easier to pack up when you go home, and when you leave a site as clean or cleaner than when you came, you’re doing everyone a favor. (More signage.)

 

 

Are You An Early Riser?

forest morning
It’s worth getting up just as the sun peeks through the trees.

Are you an early riser?

It’s a question that sparks a great deal of friendly, but heated, conversation in our house.  When we’re camping, I’m an early riser–I get up with the dawn, most days.

I do it, not because I can’t sleep, but because early mornings when camping are precious to me.  I start the fire, make a cup of coffee, and sit and watch the river go by. It will take a couple of hours for the sun to make its way over the mountains, and the silence while nature slowly wakes up is as peaceful as ever I have experienced. Peaceful moments in regular life are rare, and so I hoard those moments when I’m camping I’m like whiskey jack hoarding pieces of bread. I stuff them away to savor later, before going back for more.  Who knows when I’ll have the chance to do it again?

It enables me to create a morning routine without interruption, too.  Most mornings I get the breakfast ready for everyone.  By getting up early I can prep everything and have it ready to go, the coffee (which is the best morning smell in the world) announcing itself to the campsite, by the time everyone gets up.  The activity is unhurried, with plenty of time to refill my own mug and sit watching nature in between chores.

Psychology Today wrote that morning people are generally happier and more productive than night owls.  They tend to spend time in the morning on things that are important to them, or love to do.

If that’s the case, then creating a morning routine when camping actually makes you a happier person.  I do know that when I get back from camping I feel restored. Other vacations leave me feeling exhausted.

Create a Morning Routine That Really Works

You can create your own morning routine in camp.  Get up just as the morning light is beginning to turn everything visible. Dress warm; it’s chilly when you first get up. Go pee. Come back and wash your hands using sanitary hand wipes.  Put on the kettle, or saucepan, to heat water on the stove. While you’re waiting for it to boil, go start (or restart) the campfire. Once the fire is going, sit and watch the river (or other nature beauty) until the water is ready.

Use half the water for your morning tea or coffee (you can make coffee for the rest later). Pour the other half of the boiling water in a basin. Add some cold water to make it just the right temperature.  Wash your face, neck and hands in the warm water, then dry with a waiting towel.  I’m telling you, it’s the best feeling.

Take your coffee or tea back to the campfire, add a little more wood to the fire, and sit down. Hopefully you’ve brought a camping chair–they’re must-haves, in my opinion. Watch the world wake up.  Plan your day.  Figure out what breakfast is going to be, and if any prep needs to be done.

For the rest of the morning, until the others get up, continue doing that. Prep a little for breakfast, replenish the fire, refill the mug.  Watch nature. Think about stuff, or think about nothing. If your life is busy and stressful at home, this is something you may have to teach yourself to do. But it’s so worth it, and you’ll go home feeling far more restored.

Kids and Camping–A Natural Match

Kids and camping to hand in hand. Kids belong in nature.  They roar

Get them out into nature

through it, discover it, wonder at it, and use it in amazing ways.  Any parent that takes their kids camping should be commended.  When you see kids out in the woods or by a river or on a beach, you can tell they feel better about everything.  Life is good.

Now science is telling us that there are other benefits as well.

It may actually change our brains for the better, reducing stress, increasing our attention span, and improving our ability to create and to connect with other people. What this means is that by taking our kids camping, we’re giving them pathways to success and happiness, to some extent. Focused, creative kids do better in school.  So do kids who can connect with people.

There are more benefits than that, though.

Getting out in nature helps kids and grownups alike see a larger picture. It can help put problems in perspective and give one some relief from day-to-day stresses. Kids and adults are introduced to things they don’t see in cities; animals in nature, and beautiful plants and flowers.  Seeing beauty has always had a beneficial effect on people.  When we see beautiful things, we want to act in a way that reflects beauty on some level. That’s because beauty makes us happy. There have been studies done on what happiness can do for us. Quite simply, it makes us better people.

Give ’em a nudge.

Sometimes kids don’t want to do things.  Even when they go camping, you can sometimes see the gamer kid sitting in his camp chair, bored because you didn’t let him bring his Nintendo 3DS.  Most of the time, it’s because he or she doesn’t know what to do. So arm yourself with a list of suggestions. Get them to pick one, and if it involves you, don’t beg off. Get that jar and that bug net and go on that hike. Because when you do, you’re helping them get better grades, be better people and make happy memories about you.

And we all want that for our kids, don’t we?

Why People Camp

Nine-tenths of the world have no idea why the other ten percent camp.

Camping tents--camping is a lovely addiction. So camp!
Camping is more than a recreation for some–it’s an addiction. A lovely, lovely addiction. So camp!

For the majority, this is understandable. It may be hard to comprehend, but most of the world–and I do mean most–cannot afford to take holidays, and go out into the wilderness to experience something different from the suburbia we in many parts of Europe, the U.K. and North America enjoy.

But for those of us fortunate enough to live a regular lifestyle, many love to camp. Even so, that leaves a large percentage of suburban dwellers puzzled as to why some of their friends and neighbors pull up stakes and  head for the great outdoors. So here are some really great reasons to camp. Maybe it will encourage others to take advantage of a life-style that is, quite frankly, a beautiful and beneficial activity.

1.  It’s a healthy addiction.

We all look for diversions that refresh us and divert us from the crappy stuff that life throws at us–and why not? Many–not all, but many–hate our jobs; but most of the things the world says we should be indulging in end up being  bad for us in some way; the majority of the good things are not conducive for everyone’s enjoyment (little legs hate marathons; butterflies can scare toddlers; how many children do you know personally who like opera?)  Get caught up in camping. though, and it works for everyone.

2.  You get away from what ails you when you camp.

Why does your life temporarily suck? Work? People who keep asking for favors? Constant requests to borrow your truck? Do you live in an apartment that lets in traffic sounds all the time? Camping solves all that–at least for the time you are out there. You can forget everything that irritates you. All you have is the basics–eat, sleep, live. Yes, it takes effort. But no tension. And when you are sitting in your chair in the pre-dawn, in front of a freshly-started campfire with a cup of coffee or tea in your hand, listening to the natural world around you wake up, there is nothing better. I mean, nothing.

3. You get better exercise than at the gym.

Face it. You have to work when you camp. You have to set up your camp, create a campfire, maybe erect a cook-shack; hump the gear to your site; organize the campers so everyone cooperates in a way that benefits the whole group; erect tarps, unfold tables and chairs, organize the under-teen goobers, and find wood. The truth of the matter is this:  the longer you stay out camping, the more you will lose weight in a healthy way. If you know what you are doing.

4. You find something no amount of money can buy.

So many people today dream of living a life of success as defined by television or the internet. Running around, sucking on a beer or a whiskey or a glass of wine, watching stick-thin models walk a runway, or hearing the hooting of well-dressed people under thirty on platforms such as cruises, bars and party settings. That only gets you a hang-over the next day. You don’t care about the people you are with, and they have no loyalty to you. But camping–you find memories, abilities and people of like-mindedness that remain with you and give you continuing purpose. What’s not to like?

These are only four reasons why people camp. Do you have others?  Let me know in the comment box below.