Top 5 things I learned this camping season.
This year, my friends and I decided we wanted to go camping. Like many kids in the Midwest, we have gone to summer camps, gone camping with our parents, and just have a natural love for the outdoors. Although we hadn’t been camping in years, let alone without parental supervision we thought, “how hard could it be?” We planned for about a month and a half; booking the sight, buying hiking clothes, planning our hotdog menu, etc. We thought we would be set! For the week prior I religiously checked the weather as often as I could. Of course; rain in the forecast. I kept telling myself “Surely it would change! There is no way it will storm all weekend. The weather can change in a matter of hours and we have a week for it to change… We have days for it to change… we have a few hours for it to change… It didn’t change.” At least, not in the way I wanted it. So it stormed and this is what I learned.
Bring lots of different weather friendly clothes. The temperature seemed to go from hot to muggy, to breezy, to rainy, to monsoon, to cool, to chilly, to frigid all in 24 hours! The day before I left for the trip, I bought an Ascend Storm Shield Jacket for Ladies. It fit me perfectly. Holy cow was I glad I bought that jacket! While we hiked up and down muddy trails and paths, we were pelted with rain and muck. My soggy hiking cohorts wore raincoats or ponchos and were soaked! When we got back to the visitors center my entire torso was dry and I was happy. I also brought some thick hiking socks. The Ascend Women’s Hiking Sock to be exact. It was comfortable and kept me dry, until I jumped into an extra deep puddle. Also, I would recommend bring extra sweats. After it rains, the nights are much colder in a tent than you might anticipate. I slept in double the pajamas and curled up the entire night.
Wear “workout” gear when hiking. This is a tip I heard from a co-worker and I was glad I used it. When you wear clothes made from cotton and other similar materials, they can absorb moisture and can weigh you down. When you wear moisture wicking clothing, it helps keep you dry and cool. I wore some inexpensive workout pants and although I won’t say that I was “dry,” I was definitely more comfortable than if I wore jeans or shorts. I was not hot and I didn’t feel like I was being weighed down by my clothes. I hardly noticed they were wet which made for a much more enjoyable hike.
Bring warm comfort food: When prepping for this trip, we decided we wanted fast and easy food. We had way too much planned to worry about tinfoil dinners and Dutch oven stews. We decided, granola, and bananas for breakfast, cold cut sandwiches for lunch, and hotdog/grilled cheese for dinner. We used a nifty cast iron grilled cheese press like the one from Bass Pro Shops.
*Note that you should read the directions BEFORE your trip. There is a lot of prep when it comes to cast iron that we just ignored and we ended up burning our sandwiches. I mean, it might have been because we put the cast iron directly into the fire…but could be either.
We were fine with the cold rain when we were moving and hiking, but once we stopped for dinner, the cold set in. We felt we were literally chilled to the bone. It was still raining a decent amount while we tried to cook our dinner. One thing I was glad I brought were the Mountain House freeze dried meals. We just waited for the water to boil, poured it into the bag, waited a bit and we had warm spaghetti with meat sauce in our hands. It was hot and really tasted good. I still felt numb from the cold but I felt it was more comforting than anything I could have made in the cold rain on a less than par camp fire. Which brings me to my next topic…
Don’t buy gas station firewood. Ok, I guess we can’t rule out all gas station firewood but we have definitely learned the difference between quality burning wood and leftovers sold at half price. We just picked up some cheep firewood on our way into town at a local Shell Gas Station. It seemed fine but when we bought it, but when we burned it; it didn’t give off much heat and was extremely smoky. Now I know what you are thinking, “Um, it is FIRE! Fire is hot and that equals heat and of course a campfire is going to be smoky; anything that burns will give off smoke.” I thought the same thing too. Until a nice camping neighbor offered some of their campfire wood. It was completely different. The blaze was higher and hotter and it was more heat than smoke. We were basking in the warmth as if we were on the beach enjoying the summer rays. We learned the difference and will be more cautious next time. Check out this list of different types of wood to find what works best for your camp. http://www.troop-372.org/scoutskills/safetyskills/firesafetyandfiremnchit/campfirewoodtypes
Be prepared for the worst. Now, as a former girl scout, I have always been proud of the fact that I am usually prepared for most “disasters.” I had all the first aid, flashlights, batteries and emergency whistles I could need. One thing we didn’t plan for was a car breaking down. On the way to a trail in the park, my boyfriend’s car started to make a weird noise. We called parents and family members, took picture and tried to figure out if it would make it home the next day. We decided it was too big of a risk and took it to a shop. On the way to the small town auto body shop, something popped and smoke was in the engine. Thankfully we made it to the shop in one piece, but because we were in rural Illinois, everything in the town and neighboring towns were closed for the weekend. We had to leave the car there till Monday. After some phone calls we made sure everyone had rides home but it definitely put a damper on trip. Lesson here, get cars checked before trips away from home and also be mentally prepared to call mom and dad for help.
Overall we had a fun time, learned a lot and are busy planning and saving up for our next trip. Let us know your camping trials in the comments and help save us and others from some more disasters.
Remember, a professional was an amateur at one point.
By: Anamarie Lynch, Promotions Department