Tips to Tidy Up Camp

By JT Uptegrove

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 Obviously the less camp work you do, the more you can relax.

Finding a way to make camping simpler is always on the mind of the weekend explorer.  After all, isn't that what camping is all about -- taking a break from complicated life? There are an infinite number ways to make a camping excursion easy to manage.  Most of them are basic techniques to streamline your efforts. 

Packing

Packing, outside of the camping trip, is the most time-consuming part.  There are lots of ways to cut back on the effort. If you camp more than once a year, a camp box is the best thing you will ever invest in.  The idea behind the camp box is to place the most common and essential stuff in one pre-packed place. A camp box can be anything you choose.  I have seen everything from plastic tubs to lockable toolboxes used effectively for stowing your most crucial camp gear.  To stock a camp box, consider what items you always prepare for a trip.  Cooking utensils and silverware usually top the list, but I include everything from a pack axe to my compact cook stove.  The trick is to pack as much as you can without creating a box that weighs more than you can move.  If the box becomes overly large, don't worry.  Over time you'll figure out what you need to leave at home and what to include. But when it comes time to pack, the most common gear is already boxed up and ready to go.

Of course, a list ensures you'll never forget anything -- if that's possible.  Making a list is probably the hardest thing to do.  Most people forget and some don't bother to take the time it requires.  But once the list is complete, you'll have serious peace of mind. To develop a good list you have to start with a base of things you normally bring.  Then each time you go camping bring along the list and update it.  Removing things that go unused, but adding stuff you forgot.  Eventually the list will contain absolutely everything you want to bring.

Cooking

Camping and outdoor cooking go hand in hand.  Whipping up a meal at camp can be quick and easy. Always bring aluminum foil. It has unlimited uses, but lining pots and pans will relieve the troubles of scrubbing hard-to-clean dishes. Foil can replace some cookware by becoming the container for baked foods.  Meats and vegetables can be wrapped in foil then tossed in the coals for painless cooking and cleanup.

Choose easy foods to cook.  Grilling meat over the open flames of a campfire requires very little attention.  Pick one-pot dishes, such as stews, chilies and casseroles. Dutch ovens are great for this type of cooking. Just throw all the ingredients into a Dutch oven and set it out to bake.  Once the dish is finished, it can be served onto paper plates for convenience.

Dealing with the Weather

Since the average family outing takes place from spring to fall, rain and wind account for most of the poor weather campers suffer.  Prevention is about the only way to relieve the stress inclement weather offers. Investing in a minimal amount of gear before departure can cure bad-weather blues.  

Tarps are an inexpensive way to keep things dry.  Bring along a several assorted size tarps to cover gear with.  In particular chairs, tents and food protected from the rain can make rebounding from a rainstorm trouble-free. And above all, dry firewood will lift spirits once everything else is soggy.  Regular trash bags can become priceless in a downpour. Use the bag to cover small items like pillows or clothing.  It can also be turned into a makeshift poncho by tearing holes for your head and arms to stick out.

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 Tarps are great for sheltering people and gear from the elements.

Strong, gusting wind can wreck a campground.  Most tents make good kites as well.  The best way to remedy run-away tent is to replace its pegs.  Factory tent pegs are not usually well suited for holding down tents when the wind really starts wailing.  Any hardware store sells improved stakes.  They are plain 10-inch nails.  The price for each is under 30 cents and they can hold down your campground home under pretty severe conditions.

Camping is fun, and the more you do the better it gets. It doesn't take much experience to become an avid camper.  And you will develop all kinds of shortcuts of your own.  Learn from your mistakes, and every time you head outdoors, it will be the best time ever.  

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Great Grilling Accessories

By Tim Allard

Nothing tastes better than freshly-grilled food after a long day in the office. 

There's nothing like a meal prepared outdoors.  Unfortunately, we can't always have a shore lunch or a campfire-cooked meal but for me, my backyard grill satisfies my needs for outdoor cuisine.  Many types of accessories are available to help you make the most of food from a grill.  This Guide overviews the basics as well as some advanced grilling accessories.

 

Cooking Tools

     

Cooking tools let you tend to the food you're grilling without singeing your hands over the heat.  Opt for tools with long handles over short ones or you'll be fighting flames as you move food around on the grill.  Stainless steel construction ensures a long life.  A loop or a hook on the handle is handy to hang items from the tool holders found on most barbeques. 

     

Tongs and forks are best for moving cuts of meat, like steaks or chops, while spatulas are best for flipping burgers and fish.  Use a basting brush to apply sauces to meats when grilling.  Before and after cooking, use a grill brush to clean the grill and scrub off burnt-on food.  The above items can be purchased in sets and are the basic cooking tools for outdoor grilling. 

     

You'll also want a variety of dishes for grilling.  Small bowls are great for holding sauces and spice, while deep cooking dishes with lids are excellent for marinating meat.  Cutting boards and serving platters are also handy for taking food to and from the grill.  Lastly, don't forget to have a fire extinguisher close at hand whenever grilling.

 

Grill Top Accessories

     

There are dozens of accessories to broaden the range of food you can cook and the way you cook it on your outdoor grill.  Here's a listing of some of the more popular items.

 

Chicken Cookers

Beer-can chicken is one of the most tasty and creative ways to grill this bird.  Although you can get by with just a beer can, several types of racks and grill top accessories are available to hold the chicken in place and the can upright to stabilize it and prevent it from falling over. 
Containers, like Cook's Choice Sittin' Chicken, are reusable and follow the beer-can cooking method, but without the need for an aluminum can.  Instead, the container's cavity will hold whatever spices and marinades the recipe calls for and the bird will be seasoned and steamed as good as if cooked on a can.  Poultry roasters let you barbeque a chicken or turkey upright, but don't have containers to hold marinades and sauces.

 

Grilling Planks and Woodchips

If you've yet to use a wood plank to cook fish on a grill, put it high on your "to-do" list.  Cedar and alder planks are the most popular and must be soaked in water for several hours before grilling.  The wet planks smolder on the grill and as the meat cooks, it absorbs the smoky flavor from the burning wood.  Apply a marinade to the meat as it cooks and you'll produce an extremely savory and moist dish.    

     

Wood chips can be added to coals or placed in a smoker box (or aluminum foil pouch) when grilling.  Like a plank, these chips give meats more flavor.  Apple, oak and mesquite are three top-chip choices for grilling.   It goes without saying that grilling planks and chips should be free of chemicals when used as part of food preparation, so it's best to purchase them from grocery or food supply stores or harvest the wood from a trusty source.

 

Woks

A great way to cook veggies is a grill wok.  These non-stick woks are perforated with small holes that allow the smoke flavor of the grill come through vegetables and meats.  Anything you would stir fry can be cooked in a grill work.  Woks let grillers avoid the problems of veggies either sticking to grill or of small pieces falling through the cracks.  Woks come with both long and short handles.  If the latter, oven gloves will protect your hands when it's time to shake-up the ingredients.

 

Grilling Baskets

Grilling baskets are an easy way to cook small items or fragile items, like fish that flakes when cooked.  Baskets come in various sizes and depths and usually feature long handles.  Most baskets come with non stick coatings, which make cleaning them easier.  A quick coating of cooking oil before grilling will also help the non-stick cause.  The benefit of a grilling basket is that food can be easily be flipped over or moved on the grill with a turn of the handle, while remaining in the basket.

 

Grill Top Griddles

Available in various sizes, these griddles fit on top of the grill, letting you prepare items like you would in a pan, but cooked outdoors and heated by the grill.  These griddles are particularly useful to cook various breakfasts outdoors, whether you're a fan of bacon and eggs or pancakes.  Most of these grills will also feature a collector gutter to gather oil and grease.  This accessory is a definite must for individuals looking to get the most use out of their grills.

 

Skewers

Often available in sets featuring both skewers and a carrying frame, skewers are a great way to grill meat and veggies and shish kebabs are always a crowd pleaser.  Perfect for grilling shrimp, scallops and other seafood, skewers are also a great way to sandwich meat next to onions and other veggies, letting juices and flavors intermingle to make grilled meats savory.  Turning food is as simple as rotating the skewers.

 

Thermometers

Thermometers let you cook meat and poultry thoroughly and to perfection each time.  Overcooking meat is disappointing and undercooking certain meats, like chicken, can be dangerous.  A meat thermometer lets you measure the internal temperature of the meat.  I find thermometers particularly handy when grilling at night or when cooking large cuts of meat or entire chickens to ensure the meat is properly cooked.

 

Spices, Sauces, Marinades and a Manual

When it comes to grilling, flavor is king!  Food soaks up the smoke and flame flavors from the grill and spices, sauces and marinades only help make grilled food more savory.  Whether it's steak spice, honey garlic sauce for chicken wings, or a teriyaki marinade for salmon fillets, it's best to have a variety of these flavor enhancers on hands for various meats and poultry. 

     

To help you match the right seasoning to the meal's meat of choice, consider buying a grilling book.  Books come in a range of subjects, from basic grilling to sophisticated topics - there's a book out there to suit your needs.  Full of great info, preparation tips, a grill cookbook will help you increase your grill know-how and help you prepare mouth-watering meals. 

 

Other Grilling Accessories

     

Other items are available to make grilling easier and your barbeque perform better.  If using charcoal as your fuel source, a charcoal starter (also called a chimney) is a must.  Much faster than piling bricks in a pyramid, starters can have you cooking on coals in 15 minutes.  These cylinders hold bricks as they burn.  Once ready, coals are easily placed wherever needed using the handle, letting you customize the direct and indirect heating options of your grill.

     

Protecting your barbeque is as simple as buying a cover for it.  Customized covers from grill manufactures will ensure a proper fit.  Usually made of high-end vinyl, covers shelter the grill from the elements and extends its lifespan.  Replacing drip pans and bricks, as well as cleaning your grill and performing pre- and post-season maintenance, as per the owner's manual, will also help extend the life and increase the performance of the unit. 

     

The items listed above are some of the most basic and popular grilling accessories.  If you haven't, consider trying some of the accessories above, not only will they help you cook better meals, but they'll likely expand the range of entrees you can make using your grill.  Now go get grilling!

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Great Gear Smaller Than a Breadbox

By Tim Allard

You're tempting fate if you head outdoors and you don't bring a pocketknife or a multi-tool.

In the game of 20 Questions, asking "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" is a surefire way to narrow the scope of the mystery object. In the realm of outdoor pursuits, small items can deliver big rewards when they fill an immediate need. Of course, regardless of size no item is good if it's left at home. The dilemma for outdoor junkies is what to bring and what to leave at home. In many cases the decision is largely influenced by the size of the object itself. So, to take the guesswork out of packing, here are some outstanding accessories that are smaller than a breadbox, but big on utility in the outdoors.

 

Beyond the Basics:

     

You're tempting fate if you head outdoors and you don't bring a pocketknife or a multi-tool. Both these items come in various sizes right down to models only a few inches in length. You can even get a knife kit the size of a credit card that fits in your wallet. Folding pliers, scissors, tweezers, and can openers - all these things are really handy when outdoors. I seldom stray into the bush without carrying a blade - no matter how small.

 

Little Lights:

     

Following on the heels of pocket knives and multi tools, flashlights are also worthy of packing for most outings. I have a small light I bring whenever I'm sleeping somewhere new. It's great to use on late night bathroom breaks so I don't fumble around in the dark, stubbing my toe or knocking something over.

     

LED lights have reduced the overall size of flashlights in the last several years. LED lights last longer than regular bulbs and draw a very small amount of battery power. Even the super-small keychain LED lights can come in handy.

     

I also find the tiny headlamps excellent add-ons. They'll easily fit in a pack and help you find your way back to a boat launch or campsite during dusk. Headlamps are the type of gear that once you own one, you wonder how you managed without it. Gift buyers take note!

 

Tying it Down:

 

I find myself regularly securing things in place when outdoors, whether it's a canoe to a car top or a baseball cap to a backpack. I find carrying some rope and stretch cords always seem to be useful outdoors.

     

Another multifunctional product is a carabiner, and you don't have to be mountain climbing to use them. I clip all sorts of things to my backpack with them (including water bottles and hats) and have used them as makeshift rope guides on canoes and around camp. They're small, lightweight and extremely handy.

 

Garmin's Rhino unit even features a 2-Way Radio so you can communicate with family and friends as well as know their location. GPS Units:

     

While on the subject of small electronics, a hand-held GPS unit packs a phenomenal punch for its size when it comes to information outdoors. Plot a route, store your campsite as a waypoint or know your traveling speed. Garmin's Rhino unit even features a 2-Way Radio so you can communicate with family and friends as well as know their location. Don't forget to bring a lot of batteries for these units and remember that battery life is reduced in cold temperatures. If planning serious backcountry navigation, bring a traditional compass and a map as backup, and be confident navigating with these tools.

 

Containers:

     

I can remember being in Boy Scouts and hanging out in outdoor shops looking at all the gear. Outdoor containers were key back then, but in the past two decades there have been major advancements in their design and materials.

     

Old film cases are excellent for packing matches, fishing weights and hooks, or other small odds and ends. Of course, you could also buy specialty small-sized container for any of the above. I also like the soft and hard plastic, waterproof containers for carrying electronics and cameras when around water. Compression sacks are a great way to squish bulky items (like sleeping bags) down to a small, compact size. Stuff sacks and duffel bags are also basic but extremely useful for outings.

 

Water Bottles and Packs:

     

Carrying adequate water is critical when outdoors to ensure you stay hydrated. Both hard plastic bottles and soft plastic packs have their utility outdoors. Today's high-end products are leak-proof, often don't absorb odors or dyes, and are extremely durable. My Nalgene water bottles have joined me on my travels for over 10 years and they're still in great shape. An awesome investment for less than 10 dollars!

 

Small Stoves and Lanterns:

     

One burner stoves and lanterns are extremely lightweight and compact. Available in propane or gas fueled models, consider sticking to one fuel to simplify your packing. Lanterns also come in battery powered models. Complement the stove with a small cook set and utensils and you're ready to go. Don't forget that you don't need to be camping to use these items. I've gotten hooked on bringing my stove ice fishing. It only takes a few minutes to fire up some hearty soup or chili to keep me toasty.

     

Of course, carrying a Thermos with hot coffee or tea is another great way to pack some heat in a relatively small container. In hot weather, it's easy to keep cool if you carry small ice packs. Slip them in a small cooler to have refreshing drinks at your fingertips.

 

Seasonings, Sauces and Condiments:

     

I'll confess, it took multiple outings where I forgot things like pepper, salt, and ketchup before their importance outdoors was etched in my mind. Of course, you don't need a whole spice rack, but carrying a few spices and a sauce or two can aid in making outdoor cooking savory. Coghlan's Backpacker's Salt and Pepper Shakers are great to have to carry some simple spices.

 

Clothing:

     

This list could go on for pages, but some basic and small items can really make a difference in your comfort when outdoors. Here are just a few. A wool hat can be worth its weight in gold on cold, windy days. In hot weather, a bandana is a simple but versatile accessory. Wear it to shade your head from heat; turn it into a wash cloth; or, use it as a temporary tie down to keep things secure in your canoe. Quality socks are also critical if you're taking long hikes. Padded to protect your feet from hotspots with moisture-wicking fabric to prevent blisters, good socks are a must.

 

Sun Protection:

     

Sun protection is more important than ever when outdoors. Both sunglasses and a bottle of sunscreen take up little room in a backpack and offer protection from the sun's rays. If you invest in a quality pair of sunglasses also drop a few dollars on a decent protective case.

     

Just as important is a rimmed hat and lightweight clothing that will cover your limbs. Some clothing lines even boast UV protection, worthy of consideration if you'll be out in extreme conditions.

 

Keeping Clean:

     

When outdoors you have to sacrifice a few luxuries now and then, but you don't have to go to extremes. Small packs, or toiletry kits, are a simple way to have all the products you need for multi-day trips. Look for environmentally-friendly, biodegradable soaps when washing outdoors and follow their directions. Another good addition to your cleaning kit is a micro-fiber towel. These cloths have amazing absorption ability but take up little space in a pack. They also dry extremely fast.

     

The above are just a few items that aren't bigger than a breadbox, but are great to carry outdoors. Consider them the next time you're gearing up for your next trip. Small in size, they deliver big rewards in terms of comfort, safety and utility. Oh, and one more small but critical item to pack - bug spray. Forget this, and you might find yourself wishing you could forget the whole trip.

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Choosing an RV

By Michael D. Faw

Motorhome
Motorhomes are the top choice for some RV buyers.

Pitching a tent under the stars is fun, but foul weather can ruin a tent camping trip quickly, making participants downright miserable. Hotels, on the other hand, are noisy, expensive and often located far away from desired outdoor destinations. Many outdoor types are finding that an RV (recreational vehicle) offers the best compromise. RVs can serve as a mini home away from home or (in the case of larger motorhomes) a near replica of home.

RV types include truck campers, 5th wheels, folding camper trailers, travel trailers and sport utility RVs or “toy haulers.” There are also three classifications of RV motorhomes (A, B and C). If you are seeking flexibility, towable RVs will permit you to leave the unit behind while you drive away and go exploring. Many towable units are also smaller than the larger full-sized motorhomes that some RV users find intimidating to drive.

So what is the best type of RV for you and your family? There are many options, unit designs, and floor plans to consider. Start by determining how much space you need. Consider how you’ll use your RV. Research current RV features and determine what features you desire most. Finally, visit a dealer and walk through as many RVs as possible.

Drive or Tow?

One important decision all RV buyers face is to drive or tow. Motorhomes tend to cost more than towables because you are buying an engine, chassis and axles with wheels. On the upside, you don’t have to worry about hook-up hassles and possible strain on your car or truck’s engine, brakes and suspension.

In motorhome classifications, Type A are the large units, and these can cost from $40,000 to more than $500,000. You generally do not need a special license or CDL to drive the larger units, but check state requirements when in doubt. Motorhomes also include the Type B van campers and the slightly bigger Type C with additional space over the cab. You’ll find many designs, lengths and features in this category.

“Winnebago, for example, has more than 12 motorhome models, and each has different floor plans and layouts,” says Kelli Harms, public relations manager for Winnebago. “One decision buyers face is having the galley (kitchen) in the front or mid-coach. Motorcoach beds are usually found in the rear. We permit buyers to select from several different options and modules to make the RV more personable for them.” Buyers can also choose different wood finishes, interior colors, floor coverings, and fabric styles in some motorhomes, and also in the towable units.

Travel Trailer
RVs help place you close to the outdoors action, and can make life there very comfortable.

Towable RVs range from the lightweight pop-up campers with canvas sides to full-size conventional travel trailers spanning up to 35 feet. Also in this category are truck campers that slide into an open truck’s bed, and 5th wheel versions that attach to a special hook-up mounted in the truck’s bed. It’s important to match the load weight to the tow vehicle’s towing capacity. Some RVs will also require the use of special bars, bigger hitches and hitch balls, and possibly electric brake hook-ups. The dealer where you buy or rent a unit can help you determine the needed adjustments.

Packed With Features

Today’s RVs are a far cry from earlier campers and motorhomes, and consumer demands have led to RVs that include everything you have at home -- or so it seems. Expect to spend at least several weeks or months looking at RV models and inspecting floor plans before you open your wallet. You’ll also have to decide whether to tow or drive. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

“RV shoppers should realize that motorhomes come in many lengths,” said Harms. “Find the one that’s right for you and your family -- one with the desired floor plan, features and required space. Bunk beds are great with families, and some RV models have numerous DVD players where occupants can watch movies in bed. The first step, however, begins with selecting the right floor plan for you.”

When you need space for storage, most RVs now have multiple storage areas and often have pass-through compartments to store -- and access -- larger items. Some models also offer easy-to-access compartments that house like units, such as water and electric coming in under the same opening so all “services” are easy to access and check.

If you want the comforts of home, you’ll find full-size furniture in many models, including couches that become cushy beds, as well as comfortable queen-size beds. Beds are a big purchase point for many RV buyers. If the mattress in the unit you are considering feels hard when you lay on it for a test rest, it will only become harder during the night as you attempt sleep. Ask for a mattress upgrade, which many dealers can do for free, or for a minimal charge.

Is staying warm or cool high on your priorities list? Many RVs have air and heating systems complete with thermostats. Yes, you can also get a mini-heat pump on some units. The good news is that a top notch heating unit with proper insulation and construction can turn some RVs into 3-season units. And if you really like luxury, you can even buy an RV with an electric or gas fireplace.

Folding Camper
Folding or pop-up campers are well known for being easy to tow, lightweight and affordable.

When it’s time for food storage and cooking, you’ll find items in many RVs that rival your home’s systems (only slightly smaller). Today’s RVs often have refrigerators and freezers that power with electricity, and can then convert to propane power when the electricity is not available. Many travel trailers and RVs now have two propane tanks, thus no down-time while you search for a place to exchange or fill a tank. To keep things running smoothly, many units also have a deep-cycle, 12-volt battery to keep appliances, lights and other systems operating normally. Lack of power and convenience is a problem of the past!

If you need space and think RVs mean crowded conditions, think again. With extensions, or slide-outs, rooms can grow larger and space can be expanded. Most movable room extensions are electric powered and expand out on the sides to give much more interior room. While one or two are standard, there are models with up to five slide-out areas.

Need water or a hot shower? You are fully covered in many RV units. While plumbing was always an issue with earlier RV models, today’s changes and innovations for water storage and containment have created trouble-free plumbing service. You’ll find more drains, and possibly meters that reveal how much clean water, gray water and black water is being stored in each appropriate tank.

Electrical management was an issue with older RV units, and fuses would blow when circuits were overloaded. Better wiring and designated circuits have reduced these problems. Most units still power under 30- or 50-AMP systems, so plan accordingly and shop carefully for any extension cords or plug-in adapters.

“If there’s any feature in your home you can’t live without, you could find it in an RV,” continues Harms. “This includes stackable washers and dryers, a dishwasher and many TVs.” Winnebago offers some motorhome models with four TVs, including one for outside use. TV antennas are standard on many RVs, and cable hookups can be found in some units. A few RV models have satellite dishes and internet access options.

On the Road

According to the Recreational Vehicle Institute Association, nearly half of the recently surveyed RV owners indicated that they planned to travel more this year than they did the previous year. More than 8.2 million US households already have RVs, and this number is expected to grow in the years ahead. There are several strong reasons for the growth.

Aging baby boomers who are retiring and seeking travel is one strong factor. RVs also offer savings when compared to airline tickets, motel rooms and the cost of eating out. Some cost saving estimates range from 15% to 75% when compared to flying and using motels. A motel room generally starts at $100 to $200 for basic rooms, without the holiday weekend spikes. RV campsites with electricity and water cost $18 to $30 per night. Using an RV can also reduce health concerns, cleanliness issues, and permits increased privacy. RVs are now more fuel efficient, financed easily, and often you can rent to try before you buy.

Another plus for many RV owners is that the lanterns, cook stoves, and other assorted camping gear that they already own can serve double duty around the RV. Camping gear is known for being compact and lightweight, and these are big factors to consider when you load an RV for travel.

RV campgrounds are also often found near outdoor destinations, often by lakes and in forests. This often means more fishing and hunting time, and less travel and drive time. Today’s many RV models offer the options to go wherever you want without giving up the comforts of “home.”

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Beginner Camping Tips

By Larry Whiteley

If you would like to get your family out camping instead of in front of the TV or computer, here are some simple things to get you started.

Visit local outdoor stores for advice on preferred equipment that best fits your needs and other pointers. Read books and watch DVD's on beginning camping. Check with your local DNR or Conservation Department office to find good beginner camping locations or, first time out, just camp in your own backyard.

The best advice I can give you, though, is keep it simple. Use common sense and plan ahead. Use a checklist to make sure you have the essentials and to plan meals. Be prepared for any kind of weather. Take along books on wildlife, wild flowers, plants, celestial bodies, and just for reading. Take games for the kids, go exploring, have fun. Don't forget the video or digital camera to capture all the memories.

Larry Whiteley is host of award-winning Outdoor World Radio

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A Lantern for Any Camper

By Keith Sutton

Lanterns come in a variety of styles and sizes.

Ever since the first caveman scorched his beard trying to chase the darkness away, man has been looking for better ways to light up the night. When the sun goes down, humans want some illumination to help chase away the imagined ghosts and goblins lurking out there in the blackness.

 

Various types of lanterns have served as man's primary light source for centuries. Many early versions incorporated candles to produced illumination. Others were fueled by some type of animal oil. For example, whale oil lanterns were popular in the early nineteenth century, and lanterns that burned oil rendered from the fat of other animals and from various types of seeds were used throughout much of the 1800s as well. These lanterns burned some type of wick or had an open flame.

 

In the mid-1800s, kerosene came into wide use as a lantern fuel. Because it is cheap and readily available, kerosene is still burned in lanterns in many parts of the world.

 

The 20th century brought new innovations in lantern design, including the popular Coleman lantern, which was introduced in 1914 and is still widely used today.

 

In the 21st century, there are even more lantern choices for campers and others who need a light source where electricity is not available. Here are the primary types now in use, and the pros and cons of each to help you make the right selection.

 

Fuel Lanterns

 

Fuel lanterns are for outdoor use only. These produce very bright light, although some like the Coleman lantern are adjustable and can be turned down to a low setting for a nice ambient light. (This fact seems to be lost on many people who only know to run them at full throttle.)

 

The two primary kinds of fuel lanterns are propane lanterns and liquid fuel lanterns.

Liquid fuel lanterns are the more traditional type. They run on Coleman liquid camp fuel, which is often called white gas. (Its technical name is naptha.) Many of today's liquid fuel lanterns also are available in dual fuel models, which means they are designed to run on liquid camp fuel or unleaded gasoline.

 

Propane lanterns can be purchased with an electronic ignition option, meaning no matches are required to light the lantern.

Liquid fuel lanterns require that the fuel be poured from a storage can into the lantern's small gas tank. Then, the lantern must be pumped up via a small thumb pump to pressurize the tank.

 

Propane lanterns, the second type of fuel lanterns, typically run on 16.4-ounce (often called one-pound) disposable propane cylinders. The cylinders attach to the lantern by simply threading them onto a fitting. A plastic base then snaps on the bottom of the cylinder to provide a stable base so the lantern can be placed on a table or other surface.

 

The convenience of using disposable, screw-on cylinders has made propane models more popular than liquid fuel lanterns over the past 15 years. There's no need to pour fuel, no spillage possibility, and no need to pump.

 

Propane lanterns also can be purchased with an electronic ignition option, meaning no matches are required to light the lantern. This is another popular feature not available on most liquid fuel lanterns.

 

Both liquid fuel and propane lantern types use mantles-small, woven fabric bags that attach to the burners and ultimately produce the illumination. Single and double mantle models are available. Double-mantle models are typically brighter and slightly more expensive.

 

Mantles are available now that "clip on," using a simple wire clip that easily slips in place. Tie-on mantles, the old-fashioned type, are still in use as well. Although today's mantles are considerably stronger and more durable, and have been engineered to produce a whiter light, they are still the most fragile component of a lantern. Spare mantles should be a part of any camper's standard supplies.

 

Conventional wisdom suggests that one's camp lantern and camp stove should run on the same fuel. For example, if you prefer a propane stove, then you should consider buying a propane lantern so you only have to take one supply of fuel on camping trips.

 

Propane lanterns are comparatively less expensive to purchase (comparing two-mantle standard to two-mantle standard). Liquid fuel lanterns are less expensive to operate, although both types are inexpensive to run on a per hour basis. Both have similar run times, about seven hours on high per tank of fuel, or about 14 hours on low. Propane lanterns have a more consistent brightness over time (each tankful that is) because of pressure regulators, whereas a liquid fuel lantern might need to be repressurized, or pumped up, once or twice during the course of its run time to use a tank of fuel.

 

Battery Lanterns

 

Battery lanterns come in many varieties and are the best type of lantern for use in a tent or indoors. They also are useful outside as well, and are the best choice for kids to handle. Unfortunately, battery lanterns are not nearly as bright as fuel lanterns.

 

Most battery lanterns use primary cell batteries (D-cells, C-cells or 9-volts). These must be replaced when they expire, although one also has the option of buying rechargeable batteries and a recharger. (Few people actually do, it seems.) Spare new batteries should be carried on any trip longer than one night.

 

Electrical lanterns can be used inside tents and can be very compact. 

The type of bulb or bulbs used by your lantern is another thing to consider. Lanterns that incorporate classic bulbs provide brighter illumination but have a significant battery consumption. Lanterns that use LED technology provide a bit lower illumination but use far less energy than a traditional bulb and last much longer. (LED lamps can burn more than 100 000 hours.) Combined lanterns (bulb and LED) provide the best of both worlds. You can basically adjust the brightness and thus energy consumption level of your lantern.

 

Rechargeable lanterns also are available. These have built-in rechargeable batteries. Although the run times vary considerably, there are models that have run times that are approximately the same as primary cell battery-powered lanterns. It is important to read the owner's manual on all products to understand what each manufacturer outlines as the product's run times charging time and so forth.

 

Some models can only be recharged with a 110-volt household current. Others incorporate 12-volt recharging cords so they can be plugged into a vehicle's cigarette lighter or power plug.

 

A good rule of thumb is, the more batteries and the more light tubes or light bulbs, the brighter the lantern or lamp is likely to be. Typically, the run time is longer, too, but consumers should read the package carefully to see what manufacturer's specifications are. Many lanterns offer a high and low setting, which will determine run time as well as brightness.

 

There are a number of styles available, too, from those that look like classic Coleman lanterns to very contemporary styles and colors. Coleman offers one model that even features a remote switch, allowing the lantern to be turned on, off and changed to one of its three brightness settings from a distance of up to 50 feet away. It has a built-in nightlight that will run for 100 hours.

 

In the end, you should consider all the pros and cons of each type of lantern before deciding which is best for you. Fortunately, there are many different models from which to choose, and one of them is sure to be just right for your needs.

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Camping Gear Guide

By Tim Allard

Even minimalist and "primitive" campers can enjoy some comforts of modern camp accessories. 

Camping out in nature doesn't always have to equate to roughing it.  Whether you're a car camper or a backcountry minimalist, there are a variety of items you can purchase to make camping more relaxing.  This guide will cover a range of items you can add to your camping gear to make trips more comfortable.

 

Tents and Sleeping

     

Having a restful sleep is important regardless if you're camping or not.  There are varying sleeping pads and mats available to help you sleep comfortably in the outdoors.  Mattress pads also elevate and insulate you from the ground, helping you stay warm on cold nights.  Foam and inflatable mattresses come in several lengths and thicknesses, and in lightweight to extra thick mats.  If using inflatable mattresses, consider purchasing a 12V or rechargeable air pump; they'll save you time when setting up your sleeping quarters. 

     

For those with room to spare, a cot can be an excellent add-on.  You can even get organizers to hang off the cot's side to keep personal items within reach.  Don't forget a pillow.  Camp pillows feature a soft casing (often flannel).  Small models are available with the space-conscious camper in mind and can be compressed when packed.

     

Small accessories can help make your tent more comfortable, especially in rainy weather.  Portable, battery operated lights and lanterns, small radios, and fans are some examples.  Look for these accessories in models that can be hung from the tent's ceiling or suspended another way so you're not forced to hold them.  A deck of cards, a small board game and a book are good to have too in case you get caught in a day-long downpour.

     

It's a good idea to bring some extra supplies for your tent, especially tent pegs.  A mallet for driving in and removing stakes is another timesaving device.  Finally, a spare piece of carpet, or an actual mat, is handy to leave outside your tent door to hold footwear and wipe muddy feet.

 

For the romantic, there are Lexan wine glasses.  Food and Camp Cooking

     

I find everything tastes better outdoors, from strawberries to bologna sandwiches.  Consider expanding your camp kitchen accessories and treating yourself to a little outdoor luxury.  One of my priorities camping is a reliable coffee maker.  Percolator models are the norm at many camps, but I've had success too with paper filters and a kettle.  Drip style, portable models are also available.  You can also indulge in a specialty coffee with a portable, espresso maker. 

     

You may be surprised what's available to add a little class to camp drinking.  For the romantic, there are shockproof wine glasses.  A quality stainless steel, travel mug and/or thermos can be a real perk to keep drinks insulated and at the right temperature (either hot or cold) for several hours.  Flasks are also useful for other adult beverages.

     

A variety of dishes are available for serving your meals.  Utensils are items that can add some refinement to outdoor dining without cramming your pack.  Make sure you pack the necessary utensils on a trip.  It may be fun to pan-flip the odd flapjack over a bed of coals, showcasing your cooking talents to friends, but when your food supplies run short it's better to use a spatula and not risk ruining a meal.  Also, pack a sharp, fillet knife if you plan on eating the occasional fish on your trip, but clean fish well away from your campsite. 

     

There's a variety of collapsible tables on the market for eating and cooking on.  These can come in handy if suffering from a sore back.  They prevent you from needing to lean over to cook or eat your food.

     

The lines between outdoor and indoor cookwear can really become blurred for the individual with enough room to transport whatever they choose.  Cast-iron gear comes in many models, such as: pans, Dutch ovens, griddles and pots.  For pack-weight conscious campers, lightweight, stainless steel cook sets are available.  In most cases, cast-iron is intended to be used over a fire, while stainless steel is for cooking over a camp stove as steel tarnishes if used over a wood-fire. 

     

Don't forget an outdoors cookbook.  They're filled with great meal ideas for the outdoors, that can be both entertaining to prepare and delicious to eat.  Plan your meals before you leave, so you can pack the necessary spices and ingredients.  Treat yourself to some specialty sauces in the backcountry and purchase small, carrying containers for them if tight on space.

     

Finally, you'll solicit a lot of attention from scavengers of all sizes, from ants to bears, when you bring food to a campsite.  To discourage unwanted wildlife guests: keep your camp clean and properly hide your food.

 

Campfire Comfort

     

Sitting around a campfire during the evening is a classic camping image.  Yet outdoors temperatures can quickly cool and sitting on a log can become uncomfortable after a while.  So why not be prepared to enjoy an evening blaze? 

     

The new camp chairs come in many configurations, including this camp rocking chair style. 

Sturdy, portable chairs have replaced aluminum lawn chairs.  The new models feature durable materials, stronger frames, and some even have headrests and drink holders.  Better yet, many are collapsible, folding into their own carrying case for easy transport.  To stay warm at a fire, a small fleece blanket can block out a night's damp chill. 

 

Clothing

     

Without listing all the clothes to bring camping, some are worth repeating in this guide.  Carrying a vest camping can help regulate your temperature, whether you're stationary or active.  Convertible pants are also extremely useful, letting you easily switch from pants to shorts.  A hat keeps you warm and provides protection from the sun.  A bandana should accompany you on every trip.  These simple squares can serve numerous functions from head protection to a washcloth.  Sunglasses are also important to provide protection from UV rays.  Round out your list with long and short sleeve shirts and pants, and carry clothes you can layer.

 

Personal Hygiene

     

For those willing, you can transport some washroom related luxuries to the outdoors.  Freestanding shelters provide privacy for either toilet use or showering.  A variety of portable toilets are on the market, from the most basic to fairly sophisticated models.  Warm showers can also be had in the outdoors thanks to portable units.  Some showers are large bags with hoses that hold water.  The bag is hung and exposed to the sun which heats the water.  Larger solar heating units will contain a stand and tubular shower curtain for privacy.  A final option is a device that heats water using either single or double propane burners.  Biodegradable hand soap and shampoo, along with other toiletries should also not be overlooked. 

 

Small but Important Items

     

Up to this point I've discussed some add-ons that make camping more comfortable.  Yet, the items above are less effective if you forget some important, but basic, supplies. 

     

For skin protection, bring bug repellant and sunscreen.  You should also carry a compass and a map of the area where you are camping.  A first aid kit should also accompany you at all times.  An adequate supply of water for each person, water treatment devices, and some emergency non-perishable food should also be packed.

     

Your camping gear should contain some basic tools.  Multi-tools have a variety of useful accessories, including: scissors, blades, saw blades, pliers, screwdriver heads, and so on.  A hatchet can be used for cutting fire wood or driving in tent pegs if you don't have a mallet.  Extra rope always seems to get used when I camp - whether it's a temporary clothesline or holding a canoe to shore.  Waterproof matches, a lighter and fire starters are good to bring as well.  Finally, don't forget duct tape.  If you can't carry a large roll, wrap some around another piece of gear, like a water bottle or pencil.

     

When camping, some of us enjoy a minimalist approach to backcountry exploration, while others prefer spending time with family in a safe, outdoor setting.  Whatever your tendencies, there are always items you can bring to make your outdoor experience more comfortable.  Just make sure you don't overlook your basic needs when adding a little luxury to your next outing.

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The Right Clothes for Camping

By Keith Sutton

The best items are not only warm, they're lightweight and non-bulky, too, and they "breathe" to let sweat and excess body heat escape.

Want to have fun while camping? Of course you do -- and you can achieve that goal by being certain you're always comfortable so you can enjoy the outdoors to the fullest. One way to do this is to select and wear the proper camp clothing. The right clothes help you get the most out of every activity by protecting you from the elements and by helping you keep cool and dry in summer and warm and dry in winter. Shorts, a T-shirt and tennis shoes may be fine for an afternoon hike in the sunshine, but if it starts raining and the wind begins to howl, such an outfit will lead to misery and even possible tragedy.

     

How much clothing is enough, and how much is too much? This depends on what we're doing and where. The clothing required for a beach campout in Florida during summer will differ considerably from that needed at a fall hunting camp in Alaska. Much also depends on the person. Some folks have metabolisms and body fat that allow them to remain comfortable sitting on a frozen lake during a snowstorm while others start shivering if a cloud momentarily obscures the sun.

     

Much of our decision-making will be based simply upon common sense. If it's winter, we'll need more clothes to stay warm, including a big coat or parka, gloves, a warm toboggan or other headgear, and perhaps some insulated underwear. On a summer outing in the desert, we'll want an outfit that protects our skin from the intense sun while helping us avoid overheating. If we're hiking a full day to our camp in the mountains, it's probably a good ideal to add to our pack a wool sweater, long pants, extra socks and some sort of hat or cap.

 

Assembling a Wardrobe

     

One way to assemble a good wardrobe of camp clothing is to choose various items of clothing that can be mixed and matched to handle different trips and different conditions. To do this, we'll need items of clothing in four basic categories: inner layer, mid layer, insulation layer and outer layer.

     

As the name suggests, inner-layer clothing (most of us still refer to it as underwear) is worn next to your skin. Its main function is wicking the sweat from your skin during high aerobic activity so you stay comfortable without being damp. It also provides extra insulation. Except for basic items of underwear worn every day, most of these items are used under moderate- to cold-weather conditions when you need some added warmth and you plan to be active.

     

Fabrics used to make inner-layer clothing include cotton, silk, polypropylene, MTS 2 (Moisture Transport System) and Capilene. Although cotton is comfortable when dry, it absorbs and holds sweat next to your skin and takes a long time to dry. It's a poor choice for inner layers when it's cold outside, but okay if it's moderate or warm. Silk is lightweight, comfortable, wicks well and insulates well, but it requires special care when laundered and is not as durable as the next three materials. Polypropylene is great at wicking sweat away from the skin, but sometimes retains odors and gets scratchy after washing. MTS 2 offers polypropylene's benefits without its drawbacks. It's as comfortable as cotton and available in a variety of weights for different conditions. Capilene also is a comfortable, wicking fabric, with a special chemical treatment to help spread sweat throughout the fabric so that it evaporates quickly.

     

Mid-layer clothing is basic clothing you wear every day -- long pants, long-sleeve shirts, shorts, T-shirts, etc. -- to provide protection in moderate to warm conditions. Mid-layer items often are worn alone on short trips in good weather. Each piece should be comfortable, lightweight and durable.

     

A wide variety of fabrics that offer varying degrees of water resistance and breathability are used in making outerwear.

Five commonly used mid-layer fabrics are cotton, nylon, MTS 2, Capilene and wool. Cotton is a common choice for warm-weather camp clothing because it's lightweight, comfortable and cool. Nylon is soft, lightweight and durable but non-absorbent. Clothing made from it is available in styles for both warm and cold weather uses. Some campers wear wicking mid layers made with MTS 2 or Capilene to insulate and keep the skin dry. And wool, which insulates well even when wet, is used in full-sleeve shirts, pants, over-shirts, sweaters, jackets and other moderate to cold-weather clothing.

     

Insulation-layer clothing (shirts, pants, vests, jackets, pullovers and sweaters) provides additional warmth whenever conditions are such that inner-layer and mid-layer clothing won't keep us comfortable. The best items are not only warm, they're lightweight and non-bulky, too, and they "breathe" to let sweat and excess body heat escape.

     

Wool is one commonly used insulator, but pile and fleece, which are available in a variety of styles and thicknesses, are the choice of many campers because they're comfortable, warm (even when wet), fast drying and lightweight (half as heavy as wool). Wind-proof liners are added to many of today's pile and fleece garments so they'll keep the weather out, unlike old pile/fleece clothing.

     

Outer-layer clothing (tops and bottoms) protects the wearer from elements such as wind, rain and snow. The best items are breathable, just like insulation layers, and keep the user dry and warm in harsh weather conditions or extended periods of rain.

     

A wide variety of fabrics that offer varying degrees of water resistance and breathability are used in making outerwear. Among the least expensive options are fabrics like PVC that are completely waterproof but which provide very little breathability. These can be extremely uncomfortable when it's hot or you're very active. Waterproof/breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex are more expensive, but they're good performers in a wide range of weather conditions, making them the best choice for your money in most situations.

     

When selecting outer-layer clothing, considerations go beyond just the type of fabric to use. You also should consider if the clothes allow for a full range of motion during your usual camp activities; how easy or difficult it is to get in and out of the clothing when adjusting layers; whether or not the waist, cuffs, and neck can be sealed tight for bad weather but also easily opened for extra ventilation; and such features as the number of vents to enhance breathability, the number of pockets for storing gear items, and the presence or absence of a hood, storm flaps and sealed seams.

     

Lucky for us, today's campers can find a variety of quality camp clothing in many fabrics, styles and colors. There's something for every budget and every taste.

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Cooler Buying Guide

By Justin Hoffman

A neat feature that is fairly new to coolers is wheels for when the food and drinks weigh a ton.

We all like to arrive at our favorite campsite, or anchor in a secluded bay, and enjoy a cold beverage and fresh food.  Let's face it -- the thought of a lukewarm soda or a bacteria-ridden sandwich just isn't all that appealing. Not only can keeping your packed goods cold and fresh provide taste relief, but the benefits will allow you to enjoy a worry-free and safe meal in the outdoors.

 

Choosing a cooler that fits your style and one that provides all of the necessary requirements doesn't have to be difficult, but there are certain things to keep in mind. Follow the advice of this guide, and you'll be well on your way to owning the cream of the crop.

 

Sizing Them Up

 

The first consideration when shopping for a cooler is size. Coolers come in a wide array of sizes, from small (capable of holding a few pops and sandwiches) to oversized (allowing you to put everything but the kitchen sink inside).

 

Cooler capacity is rated in quarts. The higher the quart number, the more items that can be fit into the cooler thanks to the larger interior surface area. Common sizes include 50 quart, 80 quart and 100 quart. Many manufacturers will state how much this quart number will hold, usually using the example of pop cans and ice. For example, an 8-quart cooler will hold 10 cans plus ice, whereas an 80-quart cooler is capable of holding 106 cans plus ice. This may seem like a lot of room, but keep in mind, cans pack together nice and neat, especially in comparison to bread, fruit or irregular-shaped jars.

 

If you want a small cooler for a day on the water, or do frequent day trips as opposed to weeklong excursions, choose a style that is under 30 quarts. This will be more than large enough to accommodate a daily inventory of food and will also pack well enough to keep the temperature nice and cool.  (If you leave too much space (air) in a cooler, temperatures can rise significantly.  Packing tight is the way to overcome this.)

 

For those that head out on family trips, or take longer excursions, look to a 80-quart, 100-quart or larger cooler to meet your needs.

 

Material Fundamentals

 

For the most part, cooler manufacturers use three distinct outer materials during construction -- nylon, plastic or metal. 

 

Plastic seems to be the most popular nowadays due to its rigid composition and lightweight design. Metal was popular in days past, but its weight made it pretty obsolete, even though some manufacturers are bringing back lighter, stronger metal coolers. 

 

For small coolers, especially the personal sizes, nylon is a strong contender.  This material allows the cooler to fully collapse, allowing ease of storage when the unit is not in use.

 

There are pros and cons to both materials. Plastic is very rigid and will protect your contents safely. It can be heavier than nylon, and it also takes up a considerable amount of room when being stored. It does, however, offer greater cooling capabilities.

 

Nylon does not offer as much protection for your foodstuffs, yet it is light, and of course, fully collapsible. Large units are only made with plastic, but when it comes to a personal-size model, the choice is entirely up to you between plastic and nylon. Both work well.

 

Lids should be tight fitting. A latch is always useful for maintaining the seal, and many are lockable if listed as an option. Under The Lid 

 

The inside makeup of a cooler is what truly keeps your grub cold.  The quality of the insulation is what makes these units tick, and many are on par with one another. Foam insulation in a high-density grade is a common means for lining a cooler. The higher the density, the better off the unit will be.

 

One thing to keep an eye out for is an insulated lid. This will form a fully insulated seal on all four corners of your foodstuff, keeping things colder overall. If a manufacturer lists insulation thickness, definitely take note -- the higher the number, the better the performance.

 

Lids should be tight fitting. A latch is always useful for maintaining the seal, and many are lockable if listed as an option. A poor-fitting lid is responsible for escaping cold, many times rendering your cooler useless.

 

Beverages holders on top of the lid are also a nice wrinkle. No more spilling beverages while boating or camping, and with your drink handy, why not make the top of the cooler the table and have your whole meal on it? This is a trick I've used many times in the past.

 

Hinges on the lid are also an important feature. These will keep the top securely in place and will help stop the likelihood of misplacing it. Lids blowing into the lake while cruising at full speed will also become a thing of the past.  

 

Another common feature of coolers is a channel drain in the bottom for easy no-tilt draining. Instead of heaving up on one side to get all of the water out, simply pulling the drain plug will rid your cooler of melted ice. 

 

Handles

 

When it comes to carrying your cooler from truck to cottage or boat to campfire, having comfortable handles is imperative. Oversized is a great route, as they will alleviate finger cramping and overall awkwardness. If you can find handles with a molded grip -- especially a rubberized one -- all the better.

 

Whatever style handles you choose, make sure that they're strong. The last thing you need when carrying your food is for a mishap to happen.

 

Another neat feature that's relatively new on coolers is wheels. For those persons that have less upper body strength, or when the food and drinks weigh a ton, you can now easily roll the cooler along -- much like you would with a suitcase on wheels. A set of wheels positioned on one end, with an extra long handle on the other is ideal. Remember, however, that this function is only doable when the terrain is relatively flat and free of obstruction.

 

As you can see, there are many options when it comes to purchasing a cooler. Keep these options in mind while perusing the site or your local Bass Pro Shops store. Coolers are an integral part of the outdoor experience, so choose wisely.

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Grill, Fryer and Specialty Cooker Buying Guide

By Keith Sutton


Terrific for campsite or beach cookouts, tailgating and picnics, portable grills are easy to transport, store and clean.

 
More and more people are spending time cooking outdoors for family and friends. Eighty-six percent of American families have a grill, and an even larger share -- 91 percent -- of families of four or more people fire up regularly.

 

Grills aren't the only cooking tools of outdoor cooks, either. Millions of Americans also use fish and turkey fryers and a wide variety of specialty cookers to prepare meals outdoors. Most outdoor cooking is still done at home -- in the backyard or on the patio -- but one out of five participants does their cooking when camping and about one-tenth bring portable grills or cookers for cookouts at parks or tailgating at sporting events.


Grills

 

When buying a new grill, choosing the one that's right for you will depend on a number of factors; how often you plan to cook on it, how many people you feed, where you plan to do the cooking, what barbecue techniques you prefer, and how much money you're planning to spend.

 

Today, there are hundred of grills for every conceivable situation, from handy portables for camping and picnics to elaborate, multi-grid models with deluxe service units that are practically a kitchen in themselves. Choose carefully, and you'll soon find yourself developing the same fond attachment to your grill as to your favorite skillet!

 

There are five basic types of grills from which to choose:

 

Kettles and Covered Cookers -- These are among the most popular and versatile charcoal grills made today. Although they come in many different shapes (round, rectangular and square), they all have deep, rounded bottoms, adjustable grids and ample lids that lend them to a wide range of cooking methods. The round version is usually called a kettle, and the square or rectangular models are called covered cookers.

 

With the cover off, these grills can be used in the most basic way -- to grill foods directly over hot coals. However; because of their deep bottoms, they are also excellent for indirect cooking in which a drip pan is placed on the bottom of the grill, just underneath the food, and briquettes are banked to one side. (This allows fat to drip into the pan, not onto hot coals, preventing flare-ups and excessive smoke.)

 

With the lid on, a covered cooker or kettle acts like an oven, roasting and lightly smoking the food at the same time. Vents in the bottom are used to regulate heat. This method doesn't require a lot of attention; you just pop in the food and time it.

 

You can do an entire meal on the grill, from hors d'oeuvres, fish, and even roasts. You can bake potatoes, grill vegetables, toast bread and use the dying embers to warm up pies, other desserts and coffee. This is an easy, efficient way to cook and ideal for entertaining.

 

Today, there are hundred of grills for every conceivable situation, from handy portables for camping and picnics to elaborate, multi-grid models with deluxe service units. Water Smokers -- A water smoker is a tall, cylindrical covered cooker with a fire pan for coals, a water pan, one or two grids and a dome-shaped cover. The food is placed on a grid high above the coals. A pan of water or other liquid is placed between the coals and the grid holding the food. In some smokers, there's a second grid above the first for smoking several different foods at the same time. The food cooks very slowly in a dense cloud of smoke and steam.

 

Soaked aromatic wood chips can be periodically thrown on the coals to create smoke and add another dimension of flavor. For other interesting taste variations, beer, fruit juice or wine can be substituted for water.

 

Although, this is the slowest method of barbecuing, food cooked on low, even heat is always tender, moist and delicious. Foods particularly suited to this method of cooking include wild game, slabs of ribs, beef briskets, roasts and whole fish.

 

Portables or Tabletops -- These are light-weight, portable grills that are easy to transport, store and clean. They range from simple, hibachi type grills to miniature versions of covered cookers, either round or rectangular in shape. As the cooking surface is relatively small compared to standard-sized grills, these are not designed for large cuts of meat, long cooking times or feeding crowds. However, they're terrific for campsite or beach cookouts, tailgating and picnics. They're great for beginners, too, who don't want to invest in a full-size grill to start. And if your storage space is limited, these smaller grills may be the answer.

 

Braziers -- These are round, shallow, uncovered grills which, in their most basic form consist of a fire pan for the charcoal and an adjustable grid. Because the grid is only a few inches away from the coals, braziers are perfect for foods such as burgers, chops, steaks, and chicken that require quick grilling.

 

Braziers are also available hooded, with about half of the cooking surface enclosed to protect it from wind and retain heat. These often come with rotisserie attachments, either electric or battery-powered, that will cook a roast literally to a turn, practically unattended.

 

Gas Grills -- These come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges -- from portable tabletops to elaborate wagons, complete with cutting boards, condiment trays, and sometimes even a dry bar.

 

Gas grills are most commonly fueled by refillable liquid propane tanks, but some models may be fired by natural gas lines underneath the lawn or with disposable 16.4-ounce propane cylinders. The grate is lined with specially made briquettes or with "lava rocks," made from natural volcanic stone, which are heated by gas jets. The rocks or briquettes radiate heat, which cooks the food. Gas grills also can be used as open braziers for grilling or as covered kettles for roasting.

 

Specialty Grills -- Some grills are also made for special applications, such as marine grills that are made for mounting on pontoon boats and other water craft. Also available are combination grills that have features that may be unrelated to cooking. Examples include the combination woodburning fireplace/charcoal grill and smoker/grills.


Fish Fryers

 

Fish fries and fried fish are popular almost everywhere, so it's not surprising that manufacturers offer a variety of fryers for quickly cooking a mess of fish fillets, steaks or pan-dressed fish along with fixings such as hushpuppies and French fries. Most come complete with a single, heavy-duty burner that runs off a propane tank, a large fry pot (aluminum, stainless steel or cast iron) with basket, a gas regulator and hose, and a deep-fry thermometer. More expensive versions may include options such as multiple burners or accessories that allow you to steam or boil foods such as lobsters, crawfish, clams, and vegetables.


Turkey Fryers

 

Deep-fried turkey, a longtime favorite in the South, has spread its flavorful wings and become popular throughout the country in recent years. Celebrity chefs rave about its crispy skin and tender, juicy meat, and millions of cooks have learned just how convenient it is to have their holiday bird done in about 45 minutes (3-1/2 minutes per pound) instead of counting down the hours.

 

The fryers made especially for cooking this delectable dish have a propane-fired burner and accessories similar to those used with fish cookers, but they come with a larger (typically 30-quart as compared to 10-quart) fry pot with lid, plus a special turkey rack and hook, and an injector so you can shoot up your bird with delicious marinades that enhance the flavor. Also available are pumps and funnels for removing and storing cooking oil and a variety of special cooking utensils.


Specialty Cookers

 

Recent years have seen outdoor cooking technology advance to never-before-seen levels of excellence. Every season sees the introduction of some new specialty cooker sure to be welcomed by innovative outdoor chefs. Recent examples include:

  • Eastman Outdoors Complete Outdoor Wok: deluxe burner with a flip-flop rack lets you use up to a 22" wok (included) or up to a 36-qt. pot (not included) to cook foods Chinese style.
  • Coleman RoadTrip Heat-N-Serve Slow Cooker Heater: 6-quart capacity, stainless-steel slow cooker made specially for the camper.
  • Coleman InstaStart Propane Oven: bake your favorites at temperatures up to 450 degrees in this 5000 BTU oven.
  • Brinkmann All-In-One Cooker: do it all with this handy cooker-grill, deep-fry or smoke with charcoal or gas.
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Coleman ProCat PerfectTemp Propane Catalytic Heater

By Michael Burch

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The completely flameless ProCat is capable of putting out 3,000 BTUs and has a built-in fan.

Just because it's cold outside, doesn't mean we stop spending time outdoors -- we still go to deer camp, and we still spend hours sitting in chilly ice-fishing shacks.  In order to stay warm though, you either need a really good sleeping bag (which doesn't help much when you have get into your hunting clothes in the morning) or you need a portable heater.  But the only problem with that is you can't use most heaters inside a tent or small enclosed areas.  

Coleman now has the answer for cold outdoor enthusiasts -- the ProCat Heater.  The ProCat is a portable platinum catalytic heater that has been approved for use inside tents, campers, ice-fishing shacks, garages or even a duck blind.    

The reason the ProCat is different from most heaters is that it's completely flameless, so you don't have to worry about melting your $300 tent.  But, even though it's approved for inside use, you still need to allow the ProCat ventilation by unzipping your tent's window a little, or cracking the window of your camper.  

The ProCat is housed in a sturdy heavy-duty plastic shell and is 15 inches tall by 11 inches wide.  The 8-inch heater head puts out 3,000 BTUs, which is more than enough for a tent or small shack.  

Built into the ProCat is a whisper-light fan, which can be turned on or off, and can run up to 20 hours on two D-cell batteries.  The fan does an excellent job of pushing air through the heater head, which allows the ProCat to warm an area more efficiently by circulating the air.  

  colemanpowercat2

The PowerCat can run up to 7 hours on a single 16.4 ounce propane bottle, and is easily started with its electronic ignition.

The ProCat can run up to 7 hours on a single 16.4 ounce propane bottle, and is easily started with its electronic ignition -- which means no matches to make holes in your $300 tent. 

I recently took the ProCat with me on a scouting trip to Arkansas a few weekends ago, and I'm glad I did.  My truck has a camper shell over the bed of it and I usually sleep in it when I go camping.  The camper shell does a great job of keeping the critters out, but isn't too efficient at retaining heat.  With the ProCat I was able to get toasty as possible when the temperature dropped -- especially in the mornings.  As most of you probably know, you're always coldest in the morning, as your metabolism has slowed down to a crawl during the night -- and it was definitely chilly in the morning that weekend.  But with the ProCat, all I had to do was slide the camper window open a little and crank the heater up.  By the time I had decided that scouting was more important than sleep (it was a tough decision), the back of my truck had warmed up immensely.

Overall, the ProCat is a fantastic piece of gear that's very handy for any chilly outdoor excursion.  So if you like to stay warm, but don't feel like burning up your favorite gear, then check out the Coleman ProCat. 

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78841-t.jpg Coleman® ProCat" PerfectTemp" Propane Catalytic Heater


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78841-t.jpg Coleman® ProCat™ PerfectTemp™ Propane Catalytic Heater
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Browning Five-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set

By Clint Craft

Browning Cast Iron Dutch Oven
A raised lip runs around the ridge of the lid preventing coals from rolling off the lid and ash from falling into your food.

Lightweight stainless steel cookware has its place, and mine has provided edible meals for years on backpacking trips across the country. Backpacking cookware is very limiting, though, and after savoring a few tasty dishes created by friends who have obviously spent time polishing their Ditch oven skills, I decided it was time I, too, upped my culinary offerings to those who camp with me throughout the seasons.

Being a newcomer to Dutch oven cooking, I was interested in the Browning Five Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set because it included the 12 inch Dutch oven I was looking for, plus all of the necessary accessories for Dutch oven cooking, and a 12 inch skillet to boot. Purchasing all these items individually would have cost me well over $120, so this was really a no brainer.

The set includes a handy lid lifting tool that allows you to lift and turn the hot, heavy cast iron lid during the cooking process. The heavy duty, long leather gloves allow you to lift and turn the entire oven without fear of being burned. (You'll need to turn the lid and Dutch oven 90 degrees every 15 minutes on recipes with cook times over 30 minutes for even distribution of heat and to avoid burning your meals.)

Browning Cast Iron Cookware
Grab the loop handle with the lid lifting tool to remove the heavy, hot lid.

While seasoning cast iron cookware isn't necessarily difficult, it was nice to be able to pull the cookware right out of the box and start cooking. In fact, my first time using the Dutch oven was a trial run at home; I made an apple crisp desert using a recipe I found online.  Since then, I've experimented with main dishes that I plan to whip up at deer camp this year.

The design of the Dutch oven is pretty standard. It has a tight fitting lid with a loop handle (rather than a tab handle); this loop allows you to use the lid lifting tool. A raised lip runs around the ridge of the lid, which prevents coals from rolling off the lid and ash from falling into your food. The lid, which also fits the 12 inch skillet, fits tightly on the Dutch oven to keep moisture from escaping.

The Browning Five Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set is a great way to dive into the world of cast iron cooking. When using charcoal and open flames, I've found cast iron to be much easier to cook with than stainless steel; cast iron doesn't heat as quickly as stainless steel, so food doesn't seem to burn as easily. Also, food doesn't stick to cast iron like it does to stainless steel. Best of all, the 12 inch (4 quart) size allows me to cook meals for larger groups, yet it's not so big that I can't whip up a smaller meal for two. 



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614-998-76-t.jpg Browning® Five Piece 12' Cast Iron Cookware Set
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Easy Camp Cookery

By Keith Sutton

Food never tastes better than when cooked outdoors. And nothing quite highlights a fun campout like your favorite foods prepared using special outdoor cooking methods.

 

Modern camp cooking can be much like cooking at home. Push a button to light the camp stove or gas grill, or start a charcoal fire, and you're ready to prepare a hot, delicious meal. For many of us, however, camp cooking means campfire cooking. We enjoy preparing foods the old-fashioned way -- over the aromatic hardwood coals of an outdoor fire.

 

To make your next excursion especially memorable, try the following camp cookery methods. All are easy ways to serve up mouth-watering meals for hungry campers.

 

Dutch ovens are naturals for one-pot meals, but if you want to get spoiled, try the luxury of a whole battery of ovens. Dutch Ovens


Dutch ovens, once called "bake kettles," originated in the early 18th century. By the mid-1700s, nearly all American families were cooking in Dutch ovens on home hearths and campfires.

 

Today's Dutch ovens differ little from early models. Each is a large deep pot with a tight-fitting lid. Three short legs support the whole affair over coals. The lid has a raised rim to retain coals placed on the lid. With this arrangement-coals on top and coals beneath-the oven can be evenly heated. Old-time ovens were heavy cast iron, but now you can purchase lighter aluminum ones, too.

 

Seasoning a new cast-iron Dutch oven is important. First, clean the oven in hot sudsy water to remove any factory coating. Then rub salt-free shortening or cooking oil on all surfaces, and heat the oven for an hour or two with low heat. This can be done with your home oven set at 250-300 degrees or with a few campfire coals set on top of and beneath the Dutch oven. Allow the oven to cool, and coat it lightly with cooking oil to prevent rusting.

 

Preheat your Dutch oven before baking by placing a few coals over and under for several minutes. This helps keep food from sticking. Place the food directly in the oven, or in a pan or aluminum foil wrapper set inside. I like cooking large cuts of meat, soups and stews, and boiled or steamed vegetables, directly in the oven. Foil cups are good containers for muffins. When making a cake or pie, I use a pan in the oven, elevated slightly with two metal tent pins or nails placed underneath.

 

Coals are placed under the oven, and on top, when cooking. Generally, when making dishes with high liquid content, such as stews and soups, place two-thirds of the coals beneath and one-third on top. When baking, reverse these proportions: one-third beneath and two-thirds on top. When using charcoal briquettes for baking, I usually place six or seven under a 12-inch oven and 12-15 on top, replenishing these with new briquettes as needed.

 

Regulate the heat if necessary by adding or taking away coals. I build a small fire beside the oven from which to shovel on fresh coals. Check cooking progress by lifting the lid with tongs or a hook.

 

Remember, too, that Dutch ovens are not just for baking. They work well for pan frying, broiling, and deep-frying as well. The lid can be inverted and used as a griddle.

 

Dutch ovens are naturals for one-pot meals, but if you want to get spoiled, try the luxury of a whole battery of ovens: one for meat, one for vegetables, others for bread, pie, cake, cobbler, you name it. This is real living!

 

Here are two recipes to try:


Steak Casserole

4 pounds steak (venison or beef), cut in one-inch cubes

1/2-cup butter

2 medium onions, sliced

1 pound fresh mushrooms, stems removed

1/2-cup flour

1 cup dry red wine

2 (10.5-ounce) cans condensed onion soup

2 soup cans water

Salt, black pepper 

In a Dutch oven, saute venison cubes in butter until brown on all sides. Add onions and mushrooms; saute until vegetables are wilted. Sprinkle with flour. Stir in wine, soup and water. Stir to blend. Cover and place on coals at edge of campfire. Add coals to the oven lid. Cook 1-1/2 to 2 hours for steak. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
1 (18-oz.) package yellow cake mix

Eggs, milk or other ingredients needed to prepare cake mix

3 tablespoons melted butter

1/2-cup brown sugar

1 (16-oz.) can sliced pineapple

 

Prepare the cake mix in a large bowl per package instructions. Preheat the Dutch oven. Into a 10-inch round cake pan, pour the melted butter then sprinkle on the sugar. Briefly place the pan in the oven to melt the sugar and create the glaze. Remove the pan and place pineapple slices over the glaze. Pour the cake batter over this until the pan is slightly less than full, and set the pan in the oven atop some pebbles or metal tent pins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool 15 minutes then invert onto a plate.


Reflector Ovens

 

 

The reflector oven is a wonderful gizmo for camp cookery. It's simple to use, inexpensive and does a professional job of baking biscuits, pies, cakes, cookies, pizza, casseroles and other foods.

 

Reflector ovens were first widely used in the late 1700s. At that time, they were called "tin kitchens" or "hasteners" and were used for cooking on the home hearth. Modern reflector ovens closely resemble these early cooking aids.

 

Simply moving the oven can change the temperature.

Reflector ovens offer several advantages over Dutch ovens. For one thing, the sheet-metal (usually aluminum) reflector oven is lightweight and collapsible. The one I use is a compact 14" x 14" x 1/2" when folded and weighs a mere 2 pounds. It easily fits in a backpack or under a truck seat and requires less than a minute to assemble or disassemble. Its services compensate for its relatively slight additional weight, and almost anything I bake in a Dutch oven can be ready quicker using the reflector.

     

Dutch ovens require a bed of hot coals for proper cooking. Reflector ovens, on the other hand, work best with a high, flaming fire. A pile of pine branches feeds the fire quite nicely, and in minutes, you're preparing a baked feast fit for royalty.

 

The principle by which reflector ovens work is simple. Heat from the open fire is reflected from the shiny interior of the oven. The reflector's slanting top and bottom direct the heat toward the top and bottom of the pan of food being baked, allowing it to brown evenly on upper and lower surfaces. If the cooking temperature seems too hot or too cold, you can move the oven backward or forward to adjust it. If the food cooks unevenly on the sides, rotate the pan.

 

The best fire for the reflector is a teepee fire built to the height of the oven's cooking shelf. If two reflector ovens are available, place them across the fire from each other so the ovens are facing. This provides maximum reflection of heat.

 

When cooking with a reflector oven, a certain instinct must replace the clearly defined formulas of conventional baking. Variables like air temperature, wind velocity and fire design can make things difficult for the inexperienced camp cook. But by following a few simple tips, much of the frustration of reflector cooking can be eliminated.

 

Begin by selecting a flat surface on which to place the oven and build the fire. If necessary, make minor adjustments to compensate for sloping or bumpy ground.

 

Next, gather an ample supply of firewood. Sticks one to two inches in diameter are best. Larger wood should be split. Softwoods like pine burn hot and fast, ideal for reflector cooking.

 

Place food on a pan or piece of foil that fits the shelf of the reflector oven, and position the oven near the fire. Knowing just where to place the oven so it heats to the right temperature is the key to good cooking. An oven thermometer on the food shelf helps. But you can also guess the temperature with reasonable accuracy by holding your hand just in front of the oven. If you can hold it there for seven to 10 seconds, the temperature is near 200 degrees; six seconds, 300 degrees; three to four seconds, 400 degrees; one to two seconds, 500 degrees.

 

After five minutes, check the food to be sure it's cooking properly. If the top is browning faster than the bottom, the fire is too large. If foods are browner on bottom than on top, the fire is too small. Make adjustments as necessary.

 

Carry two thick potholders or heavy gloves for moving the oven and handling the food. Most reflector ovens also have a back flap that can be opened to check the food.

 

Now that you know how to cook, all you need are recipes to try.  Here are some of my favorites.


Cheese-Garlic Biscuits
2 cups Bisquick baking mix

2/3-cup milk

1/2-cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted

1/4-teaspoon garlic powder

 

Mix Bisquick, milk and cheese until a soft dough forms. Beat vigorously 30 seconds. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto a sheet of lightly greased aluminum foil cut to fit the shelf of your reflector oven. Bake 8-10 minutes or till golden brown. Mix margarine and garlic powder; brush over tops of warm biscuits.


Easy Cobbler
3/4 cup melted butter

1-cup sugar

1-cup flour

2/3-cup milk

1 large can sliced fruit

 

Pour butter in 8-inch square casserole. Combine sugar, flour and milk. Pour over butter. Add fruit. Bake until golden brown.


Little Pizzas
English muffins

Pizza sauce

Grated mozzarella cheese

Your favorite pizza toppings

 

Lightly brown muffins in the reflector oven. Spread pizza sauce on each half. Crown with cheese and your favorite toppings. Heat on foil until the cheese is bubbly.

 

Foil Cookery


Aluminum foil can be used to prepare sealed packets of food to cook on campfire coals or a grill. Heavy-duty aluminum foil is preferred, because it's thicker and less likely to be punctured. Lightweight foil can be used in double or triple thicknesses.

 

One important facet of foil cookery is sealing the food packets tightly to retain steam and juices, and, at the same time, exclude dirt and ashes. This is accomplished by using a "drugstore" wrap.

 

The classic drugstore wrap is an easy way to get food cooked and cut down on the mess.

Tear off a piece of foil twice as long as you want the completed food package to be. Lay the foil flat, place the food on top, and fold the foil in half so the food is between the folded pieces. Then, beginning where the two end edges meet, make a 1/2-inch fold and firmly press this, sealing the seam. Then fold the seam over two more times, 1/2 inch at a time, and press to seal. The two open ends are then sealed in the same manner, and the packet is ready for cooking.

 

When cooking meats and fish, seal packages so there's little or no air space between foil and food. Close contact between food, foil, and fire helps brown the food. In cooking vegetables or other foods; however, it may be preferable to "tent" the foil over the food. The extra air space allows the package to act like a pressure cooker, steaming the food until it is done without browning it. One or two tablespoons of water or broth added to each package enhance the flavor and produce a more tender, moist meal.

 

When cooking directly in campfire coals, add a second foil wrap over the first so the package is less likely to get punctured. When you remove the outer wrap, the inside package will still be clean, and the opened foil can be used as a plate or serving dish.

 

The manner in which you place the food packets in the fire depends on the heat of the fire and how fast or slow you want the foods to cook. If the coals are very hot, place the foil packs on top of a few coals, turning when half-cooked; or position them beside the coals and tilt the broad side of the packets toward the fire using sticks or rocks to prop them up. If the coals aren't too hot, you may want to bury the packets in coals so there's no need to turn them.

 

Barbecue tongs or a long stick can be used to turn foil packets so both sides cook evenly, and to remove the packets from the fire when they're done. Foil cools quickly when removed from the coals, but gloves may prevent blisters when opening the packages. To open the food, tear the folded ends or snip the top and pull open. Use care so escaping steam doesn't burn your face or hands.

 

Foil-cooked foods are a special treat. The following recipes will get you started, but try your own ideas as well. Tasting new dishes you created is the fun of foil cookery.


Baked Apples

Several apples

Sugar

Cinnamon

Butter

     

Wash and core apples, preparing one or two per serving. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon inside the hole, then add a pat of butter. Double wrap apples loosely in foil with a little bit of added water. Cover loosely with coals on top and beneath, and bake for about 20-30 minutes.


Foiled Again Fish Fillets

20 saltine crackers, crushed to a fine meal

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1/4-cup butter or margarine

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4-cup lemon or lime juice

2 pounds fish fillets

 

Combine cracker meal, parsley and dill; set aside. Melt butter in a skillet and saute garlic 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Brush fish with this mixture and place on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side inside. Toss remaining lemon-garlic-butter with cracker meal mix. Spoon over fish. Seal foil packet, and cook over coals 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

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Camping With Kids

By Robert Loewendick

Depending on your outdoor skills or abilities, the style of campground is the first element and primary choice for camping with children. 

 

Everyone has camped in one way or another, most likely during their young years.  In the backyard in a hand-me-down tent that held more water in than out or maybe in the living room under a blanket draped over a couple of chairs.  Whatever method of shelter or childhood camping excursion, adventure was the elusive spirit that was searched for.  Camping has been a growing choice, and still is, of a way of vacationing for many years to come.

 

Maybe you want to try something new and expose your kids to the natural world, which provides many cool and informative lessons.  You may have friends who enjoy camping and they encourage you and your family to give it a try.  With the price of gasoline as it is, camping would be a good alternative to the faraway vacation.  If you have never been camping before or haven't since the kids were born, then you may wonder where to begin planning a camping trip, buying the correct or necessary gear, and where to go. 

 

First Impressions

 

Campgrounds are readily available in almost every county of every state, either privately owned or operated by state and national park services.  With nature programs and events, government-run campgrounds are ideal for first-time campers.  Some campgrounds cater more to RVers than tent campers and some are tent and small pull-behind camper friendly.  When choosing a campground for the family, keep these five elements in mind; campground style, campground amenities, distance from camp to town, weather and season. 

 

Depending on your outdoor skills or abilities, the style of campground is the first element and primary choice for camping with children.  Most new camping families are tent campers; because of the affordability.  Tent camping gives the greenhorn the opportunity to experience camping with little cash investment.  Some campground owners rent sets of camping gear for folks wanting to feel the experience for little cost.

 

The second element is what amenities the campground provides for children.  Keeping your kid's ages in mind, contact the campground before going to discover if a playground or swimming pool is on the premises and if you may reserve a site near the attraction.  If your kids are a little older and can be responsible close to the water's edge, then setting up camp next to a fishing lake offers the opportunity for frequent fishing.  But since the camp is only a few steps away, a young camper that has become bored from not catching fish can "escape" back to their fun fort of nylon housing and blackened, but tasty hotdogs.

 

The third element is the distance from the campground to a town that provides provisions for any unexpected flare-ups of trouble or for entertainment if weather dampens the camping experience beyond the camper's willing patience. Even the most prepared parent may forget to pack something, either an important item or a missed pleasure from home.  Staying at a campground within a short drive to town provides an "escape route" for parents trying to satisfy an unhappy camper.

 

Number four and five, weather and season, go hand in hand.  Weather is the primary factor in determining if a camping trip is enjoyable or not.  A night spent in a leaky tent with water running through sleeping bags filled with shivering, whining kids and parents will definitely sour any opinion of the camping experience.  Although the weather cannot be controlled, selecting the season to go camping can. 

 

Spring camping can be camping's best season; the foliage is blooming, wildlife are active and the fish are biting.  But with spring camping action, also comes spring rains and cool nights.  Several changes of warm clothing and raingear should be the first packed when preparing for spring camping. 

 

Summer camping is the most popular season, mainly because kids are out of school for the summer and the weather is more stable.  Hot summer camping can be enjoyed by selecting a campground and campsite that is shaded.  A screened cooking and eating shelter is nice to have during the summer season to protect against insects, both on kids and food. 

 

Sleeping outdoors when the leaves are beginning to fall offers benefits to the camping family more than previous seasons.  Sitting around a campfire to keep the chill off, while toasting a snack on a stick is the picture-perfect camping icon.  Kids look forward to hearing a few haunted forest stories before turning in to the cozy sleeping bag waiting to comfort them on the thin mattress on the tent floor.

 

The child's first impression of camping will be the key factor to instilling the desire to return for another camping voyage.  Camping does provide plenty of activities that satisfies a kid's craving for adventure. 

 

The few extra dollars spent on a larger tent will be small compared to the freedom of space for the family during the night.

 

Home Away From Home

 

I have seen families unloading some interesting gear from their vehicles in preparation of setting up camp on their site.  Not that their collection of gear was not entertaining, but several items were not necessary or practical.  The three requirements of camping gear are; shelter, food, and entertainment.  The primary reason to take the family camping is to get away from the daily routine and spend some quality, simple time with your children.  Don't make the experience complicated with too much, or needless gear -- keep it simple.

Shelter includes; tent (or camper), sleeping bag and mattress, and other shelters such as a dining canopy.

 

When choosing a tent, don't skimp on size.  The few extra dollars spent on a larger tent will be small compared to the freedom of space for the family during the night.  The extra room will also be greatly appreciated if passing rain shower forces the family to remain in the tent for an extra hour or two.  The floor of the tent is as important as the roof.  Choose a tent with a floor sewn onto the walls at a point a few inches up from the ground contact.  Think of it as a bowl or tub, any rain run-off weather will be kept outside the tent if the seam is up and out of reach.

 

For kids, the best bet is to buy a "three-season" sleeping bag.  Just as the name states, it will perform nicely in spring, summer, and fall.  A must for sleeping kid campers is a sleeping pad placed under the sleeping bag to provide extra cushion between the bag and the tent floor.  A dining canopy provides shade and protection from the sun and rain while eating or filling in the lines of a coloring book. 

 

Packing List

 

Space doesn't allow me to dissect every need for a successful camping trip, but I will touch on a few necessities.  Cooking: trash bags, paper towels, paper plates, metal forks and spoons (metal to assist with cooking), skillet and pan, and dishwashing supplies.  A tablecloth for the picinic table is a must for sanitary reasons, especially with kids that like to poke into their mouth what fell just off of their fork. 

 

Two ice coolers, one that will be opened often for drinks and such, and a second cooler for meats and freshly-caught fish.  On hot days cover the coolers with a sleeping bag to prolong ice life.  Keep the food list simple, don't bring the grocery store.  Most campgrounds have a "camp store" that supply the "forgot-at-home" items.  A few cans of beans, corn and a can of your child's favorite pasta snack will finish the menu and provide a quick meal. 

 

Clothing: dress for the season, but prepare for weather changes.  Remember the temperature drops a several degrees at night and even sitting around the campfire may require a jacket.  An extra pair of shoes for the little feet that can't resist jumping or sticking a foot in the water puddles on the hiking trail or a slip into the fishing pond.  A pair of sandals to wear to the shower house, and of course a swimsuit in the summer.   Other essentials include; sunscreen, first aid kit, flashlight, lantern, insect repellent, matches, and a container for carrying and storing water for camp.

 

Camping offers many forms of entertainment for kids and their families.  Swimming, biking, hiking, playing cards and games, water fights, and attending nature programs are several popular camping activities.  Including the kids in the camp chores such as; cooking, building the campfire and setting up the camp is important in instilling the love for camping in your child.  Include the kids in planning the trip as well.  Ask them what they are looking forward to the most and then do it. 

 

Don't forget the camera, disposables are fine.  Documenting the family camping trip by photographing or jotting down highlights in a journal for the family to enjoy at a later time is a must.  Memories may fade, but a photo album presented to the child will be shown off to friends, teachers and family to tell of their grand camping adventure. 

 

Camping with kids allows the family to enjoy the simple pleasures of life by interacting with nature.  Sitting around the campfire, after filling bellies with s'mores and gazing at the flames, the sounds of nature will serenade a child and parents to a truly relaxed state -- an experience that will be looked forward to again and again.  

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Maximizing Space in Camping Tents

By Tim Allard

Not all tents are created equal and some designs will suit your needs better than others. 

You never really know how limited space is in a tent until you're forced to spend several hours in it seeking shelter from a heavy rainstorm. Of course, the actual size of the tent and the number of people in it impacts available space, but there are interior options, accessories and packing habits that can help you maximize tent space and interior comfort. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of the space inside your tent.

 

Haven't Bought It Yet?

     

If you haven't bought a tent yet, here are a few words of advice on spacing.  Buy a tent that's rated at least one, if not two, persons larger than the number you intend to have sleep inside it. This is a good rule of thumb unless you're concerned about the size and weight of a packed tent. The first tent I bought was a two person; with two people in its tight quarters there was barely room to move around. The lesson I learned is that I should have bought at least a three- or a four-person tent, to accommodate backpacks and spare clothes in the tent.

     

Another thing to consider when buying a tent is its footprint and shape. Not all tents are created equal and some designs will suit your needs better than others. You can measure the length and width of your sleeping bag and pad (or cot) to ensure the tent has enough space to fit your gear with a bit of extra space. If stores have tents set up, get inside and lie down and bring in a few items to ensure you'll have enough space. Keep in mind you want extra room at the tent's sides to ensure you've got enough space for gear once you load it in. If family camping, getting a tent with dividers can break up space for gear versus sleeping, and dividers with zippers will let you go to an open concept when people are hanging out in the tent.

     

Consider a dome-style or cabin-style tent for plenty of overhead room, unless you're concerned about weight and tent pack-size. These tents let you sit up comfortably and in some models you can crouch or stand inside. Being able to move around freely in the tent will help you keep your entrances and exits quick, equating to fewer bugs than cramped campers stuck fumbling with zippers or tripping over door bases. Extra space will also pay off if you ever get stuck in the tent in a rain storm, preventing the feeling of claustrophobia that tiny tents can create.

 

Tent Accessories and Carving out Space

     

Once you've bought a tent, the next step is being creative and using accessories to maximize the interior space. The first thing to do is determine the best way to use the storage space in your tent. If possible, store items outside instead of cramming all your gear into the tent. In most cases hanging food is the safest bet to discourage animals from invading your camp site.  Other gear can be kept in a car, under a canoe, wrapped in a tarp, or tucked under the tent's vestibule. 

     

Once inside, it's best to take advantage of the tents internal pockets and compartments to store gear and clothing. Most tents come with a hanging organizer or storage system that clips into poles or loop holes and hangs from the ceiling. You can easily expand the storage capacity of these units by running rope or stretch cords under them again and make a great inside clothesline or flashlight holder, just make sure you don't overload the loops with too much weight.

     

If you're sleeping with a cot, use the space underneath it to store gear.  There are cot organizers and bags that hang over the sides to keep items organized and within reach.  If sleeping on an air mattress or pad, keep backpacks and other items off the sleeping area. Pile items on top of each other or store them in the tent's other compartments. Don't let items touch the tent walls as condensation can accumulate on cool nights and dampen items. 

     

To store clothes use compression bags and stuff sacks to cut down on the space requirements of these items. Travel organizers can also be handy to keep all your toiletries and personal items in one bag. This allows you to only have the things you really need in one small bag, while other items can be packed away in larger bags.

 

Cutting Down on Bulk

     

One of the biggest things you can do to increase the space in your tent is to minimize the amount of stuff you bring camping. No where is this more true than with clothes. Following the layering rule to outdoor wear (to add on or take off layers to regulate temperature) is a better option than bringing clothes only for specific temperature ranges. Many outdoor clothes today are also synthetic blends and can be compressed easily, a lot better than a bulky wool sweater anyway. Reducing the amount of clothes you bring will dramatically impact the amount of space in your tent. 

     

The same reduction thinking is important to keep in mind when packing for your trip. Consider what items can perform double duty. For example, stuffing extra clothes into a pillow case reduces the need for you to pack a pillow.  Another example is the rope used to secure items in a canoe can double as a clothesline (whether in the tent or out) instead of bringing extra rope.

     

Tents can be tight on space but options do exist to keep them comfortable and somewhat roomy. The key to tent comfort is choosing the right sized tent, bringing only the items you need, and using organizing accessories to maximize interior storage space. The inside of a tent will never be as good as your bedroom at home but hey, isn't that what the outdoor experience is all about?

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Fire Safety for Campers

By Keith Sutton

Keep your camp and fellow campers safe by following all the rules for safe fire use when enjoying the outdoors.

The sight was chilling, to say the least. My tent and everything inside it had burned to the ground. Nothing was left but a pile of charred fabric and blackened gear.

     

I had been gone only a few minutes. A friend and I were camping near a backcountry lake, and needing some water for dinner preparation, I grabbed a jug and headed to the shore to fill it. In the brief time I was away, the wind shifted and apparently blew embers on the too-close tent, which caught fire. I was only 100 or so yards away, but never saw the resulting conflagration.

     

Had it not been summer, and had the weather not been pleasant, the fire might have been more than the mere inconvenience it turned out to be. Nevertheless, the blaze consumed several hundred dollars worth of camping gear, and I was very unhappy I hadn't taken the proper precautions to prevent this mishap. (My buddy wasn't too happy about the loss of his gear, either.) Fortunately, only the tent and gear burned, and not the surrounding woodlands. Otherwise, the fire could have turned catastrophic.

     

I was only a teenager when that fire occurred. During the 35 years since passed, I have worked both as a park ranger and a volunteer fireman. While serving in those capacities, I saw many camping fires that got out of control and caused much more serious problems. In one instance, several hundred acres of forest burned when campers who were returning home left hot coals in their fire pit that reignited and caught the woods on fire. Another camper was severely burned while trying to light a campfire with gasoline. In yet another case, a candle burning in an RV ignited curtains and destroyed the camper. The owners were lucky to escape.

     

Fires and camping seem almost inseparable. We use campfires for cooking and providing warmth. We use fire to light our surroundings and to provide that special ambience that is a part of the camp experience. We use fires of many sorts that are fueled by a variety of materials, including wood, propane and white gas.

     

If we use fire properly and follow all the necessary safety precautions, then fire is a good thing. But if we fail to observe all the right precautions all the time, fire can be a very dangerous part of camping.

     

Keep your camp and fellow campers safe by following all the rules for safe fire use when enjoying the outdoors.

 

Campfire Safety

     

Before building a campfire, know all the local rules regarding open fires where you're camping. In many areas, campfires are allowed in designated areas only. And if conditions are dry or otherwise unfavorable, fires may be prohibited. Heed warnings from government agencies, and if it's windy or dry, don't build a fire.

     

If a fire ring is available, use it. Otherwise, when preparing a campfire, select a site a safe distance away from grass, trees and tents.

     

An area 10 feet around the campfire should be cleared of ground litter, twigs, leaves and organic material, down to bare soil. The site also should be upwind from the sleeping area to prevent catching a tent or sleeping bag on fire from a spark or ember. Encircle the campfire pit with rocks.

      

There are a variety of products that may be safely used to help ignite your fire, but resist the temptation to use gasoline and other petroleum-based liquids, which can cause dangerous explosions. Build your fire with very small pieces of kindling laid first. Add small pieces of wood on top of the kindling, then continue adding larger pieces of wood on top of those. Keep your fire a manageable size, and keep a pail of sand or water nearby, along with a shovel, in case they are needed to control the fire or extinguish it. Pile extra firewood away from the flames, making sure it is upwind from the fire.

     

When the campfire is burning, someone should always attend it. Be sure flying embers don't land on anything flammable, and beware of sudden gusts of wind that can spread a fire. The fire should be extinguished when conditions are unsafe, before you bed down and any time you leave the campsite.

     

To put out a campfire, drown it with water. Make sure all embers, coals and pieces of wood are wet. Turn rocks and logs with a shovel so you can douse hot coals beneath them. Then use the shovel to stir the embers, add more water and stir again. Add still more water if necessary. Be sure all burning material has been extinguished and cooled.

 

To keep the fire from spreading, encircle the campfire pit with dry rocks. Stove, Lantern and Heater Safety

     

When using propane, butane or liquid-fuel camp stoves, lanterns or catalytic heaters, know and follow the manufacturer's directions. Make sure all connections are tight to avoid leaks, but never check for a gas leak with a lighted match. Instead, put a little soapy water on the connections. If the mixture bubbles, gas is seeping out. Repair the item or have it checked by a professional.

     

Replenish the fuel supply of each item before using it. Use a funnel to avoid spilling liquid fuels, and clean up any excess immediately. Do not refuel a hot stove, lantern or heater. Wait until it cools before attempting to light it again. Fill lanterns and stoves a safe distance from campfires, grills and other sources of heat/open flame. And always fill them outside, never in a tent or camper.

     

Handle flammable liquids and fuel cylinders with care. Store them properly a safe distance from your tent, camper or any source of heat or open flame. Do not place them inside your tent or camper.

     

When your appliances are being used, place them so nothing flammable comes in contact with flames or hot parts. Avoid using fuel lanterns and stoves inside your tent.

 

Tent Fire Safety

     

Most tents today are manufactured from flame-resistant fabric, but flame-resistant doesn't mean fireproof. Always place tents a safe distance and upwind from open campfires. And clear ground debris away from the tent perimeter so sparks can't ignite anything.

     

Do all your cooking outside. A stove used in a tent could accidentally start a fire. Lighting should come from battery-operated sources. Avoid fuel lanterns or candles inside. If electric lights are used, keep hot bulbs away from anything flammable. When using heaters approved for tents, keep them away from walls, sleeping bags, pillows and other contents of the tent.

     

It's a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in each tent, and be sure all campers know how to operate them. Battery-powered smoke detectors provide an added measure of precaution.

 

Camper/RV Fire Safety

     

When traveling with a camper trailer or recreational vehicle, use only electric or battery-operated lights inside. Maintain all appliances in a safe working condition and check them before use.

     

When the vehicle is traveling down the road, shut down gas to stoves and water heaters by closing the fuel supply at the gas bottle. Don't cook while the vehicle is underway. A sudden lurching of the vehicle may result in spilling of cooking oil, causing a fire.

     

Always use fuel stoves and lanterns outside campers and RVs. Accumulation of vapors in the fueling process could result in an explosion.

     

It's also wise to avoid accumulating and storing combustibles such as newspapers and grocery bags in your vehicle. Keep combustibles away from cooking and heating equipment.

     

Keep a fire extinguisher on board, preferably a multi-purpose one mounted by the exit door. Mount a battery-operated smoke detector inside the vehicle as well, and replace the batteries before each camping trip. And just in case the unthinkable happens, develop a fire escape plan with your family. It could save someone's life.

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How to Build a Safe Campfire

By Keith Sutton

The fire is not only the social hub of a campsite; it also is what keeps us warm and cooks our food.

When people think of camping, the first image that comes to mind is probably of a group of friends or family members gathered around a blazing campfire, laughing, telling stories or roasting hot dogs. The fire is not only the social hub of a campsite; it also is what keeps us warm and cooks our food.

     

For many people, however, building a safe, enjoyable campfire never seems to come easy. They light a match, start a small blaze and then watch as the crackling fire they had hoped for turns into a pile of scorched, smoking sticks.

     

Building a campfire isn't difficult, however, if you carefully follow a few guidelines. Done right, all you'll need is a single match, maybe two, to get it started.

     

For safety's sake, begin by choosing a safe spot for the fire. Pick a location in an open space more than 10 feet away from brush and trees. Then clear a 10-foot circle down to mineral dirt -- free of dry leaves, grass, twigs and pine needles. On grassy soil, cover turf with a mound of mineral soil. If the ground is wet, build your fire on a floor of sticks or bark of dead trees. In winter, scrape away snow before laying this floor.

     

Next, you'll need perfectly dry fuel for making the fire. This includes three types of material: tinder, kindling and fuel. The type of tinder, kindling and fuel you use depends on the area in which you're camping. By keeping your eyes open and experimenting with native materials, you will quickly learn what to use.

     

Tinder is flammable material that will flare up when touched with the flame from a burning match. In areas with evergreens, look for the tiny dead twigs that seem to sprout right from the bark. The tips of dead branches of many other kinds of trees are also usable. An old mouse or bird nest can provide good tinder, too. If everything else is wet, split open a log with a hatchet, and you are pretty certain to find dry wood in the center. Cut the center part into small sticks and whittle out wood shavings for starting your fire.

     

Kindling is thin branches or split wood that will catch the flame from the tinder and, in turn, ignite the heavier fuel. Use pieces about the thickness of a pencil gathered on the ground or split from the interior of logs.

     

Fuel does the real job of providing heat or a cooking fire. This can range from thumb-thick branches for cooking a simple meal to heavy logs for keeping a fire going throughout a long night in a winter camp.

     

Gather a good-sized pile of each material -- tinder, kindling and fuel -- before you start laying your fire. One of the biggest mistakes made by greenhorns is not having enough of each to get a blaze going.

     

The experienced camper builds each fire to meet a particular set of needs.

As you lay your firewood, remember that a campfire must have oxygen in order to burn. Thus you must lay the fire materials so air can easily flow through. There are several ways of doing this, including the simple lean-to fire lay. You start this fire lay by pushing a green "lean-to" stick into the ground at a 30-degree angle. Point the top of the stick in the direction from which the wind comes. Next, place a good amount of tinder well in under the lean-to stick. Then break kindling wood into short lengths and lean them carefully against the lean-to stick on both sides. Continue building up the fire by leaning thicker fuel sticks against the thinner kindling wood. Now, if your wood is dry as it's supposed to be, you can strike a match (keeping the wind at your back), cup your hands around it until it has a good flame, then apply it to the tinder and you'll have a campfire going in no time at all.

     

From this point, add progressively larger sticks to the fire, always making sure that enough oxygen is getting to the wood. The first reaction might be to throw on a big log right away, but this would probably just snuff the fire out. Instead, work your way up to bigger and bigger pieces of wood, maintaining the air flow underneath. Eventually the fire will be blazing strong, and you can add those larger logs.

     

There are many other fire lays you can use that will serve your needs just as well as the lean-to lay. Use any you might learn, but always remember to follow the three basic rules of fire-building: 1) make sure your fuel is very dry; 2) use plenty of tinder to light your kindling, and plenty of kindling to light your fuel; and 3) lay your fire materials so plenty of air can flow through and feed oxygen to the blaze.

     

The experienced camper builds each fire to meet a particular set of needs. For example, if you need a cooking fire, you'll be better off burning hardwoods such as oak and hickory and creating a horizontal bed of coals to cook on or over. If you're baking with a reflector oven, you need flames that radiate heat. Softwoods like pine burn hot and fast, making them ideal for this type of fire. For your evening "friendship" campfire, you will want a fire that lights up the whole circle and goes on burning throughout the evening. Stacking wood log-cabin fashion, a couple of feet high, is ideal for this.

     

Make your fire just large enough to meet your needs. That's one of the main secrets of proper fire building -- the smaller the fire, the safer it is. When the fire is started, never leave it unattended. And when you're ready to leave, extinguish the fire by killing all embers and dousing all sticks with water. Stir and douse again.

     

Do these things and you will find it quite simple to enjoy the benefits of a safe, enjoyable campfire on every camping trip.

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What to Pack for Camping

By Keith Sutton

What you need will depend largely on what type of camping trip you're planning.

If you've never camped before, you may be worried you'll be missing something important when you arrive at your camping destination. To be honest, it happens to all of us sooner or later. We unroll our tent and find we don't have any stakes. The skillet we thought we packed is at home on the stove. The weather turns cold and we remember we should have brought extra clothes.

     

If you're like me, there's only way to avoid such forgetfulness: make a list. Do this well in advance of your campout, assessing your needs and creating a list of things you want to be sure you take with you. Then, after you have gathered everything for your trip, check off the items you have and be sure nothing's missing. Then double-check the list again for good measure.

     

What you need will depend largely on what type of camping trip you're planning. If you're driving to a campsite, for example, you can take whatever your vehicle will hold. If you're backpacking to your camp, however, you'll have to limit the weight and volume of your gear.

     

Do some research ahead of time that will help you determine what items to pack. Does your campsite have running water? If not, you'll have to carry water or a means of making it potable. Going to bear country? You may need rope and a bag to hang your food out of reach of bruins. Will you be in tick and chigger country? Insect repellent should be on your list. What's the weather forecast? You might need rain gear or winter clothing. Get the idea?

     

The key is to be as thorough as possible, and err on the side of caution when trying to decide whether or not something on your list should be packed. Some items -- matches, toilet paper, a flashlight and rain gear, for instance -- should be packed for every trip, regardless of whether you think you might need them or not. Others such as fishing tackle, playing cards and binoculars may or may not need to go depending on your plans once you reach your destination.

     

To get you started, allow Old Forgetful Me to share portions of my own Camping Checklist, developed after many years of trial and error in the outdoors. I keep my list on my computer, print out a copy before every trip and examine it thoroughly to be sure I haven't forgotten anything I'll need. Use it as the basis for creating your own list that you can refine as time goes along.

 

Essentials

     

The first items on my list are what I call "Essentials." It's possible I might not need one of these items on a particular trip, but if I do (and chances are, I will), I'll have it. These are important things every camper will probably need sooner or later, including:

  • Cash, credit cards, checks
  • Required licenses and permits (for camping, hunting, fishing, etc.)
  • Waterproof matches and butane lighter
  • Multi-tool and/or Swiss army knife
  • Toilet paper
  • Flashlight, spare batteries and bulb
  • Maps and compass or GPS
  • Rain gear
  • Extra clothing
  • Insect repellent

What extracurricular activities will be part of your camping trip? Personal Items

     

In this category, I include clothing, toiletries and other items each person in the group should bring. Everyone should pack the necessary number of items needed for the duration of the trip. The exact items will vary according to individual needs, time of year and other factors, but here are the items on my list:

 

Clothing

  • Pants, shorts
  • Shirts
  • Underclothes
  • Socks
  • Belt
  • Jacket, coat
  • Hat, cap, toboggan
  • Swimwear
  • Nightwear

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush, paste
  • Soap, shampoo
  • Mirror
  • Comb, brush
  • Deodorant
  • Washcloth, towels

Miscellaneous

  • Extra prescription glasses/contacts
  • Prescription medicines
  • Watch, alarm clock
  • Sunscreen, lip balm

Camping Gear

     

If you're staying in a trailer or RV, you may not need to worry about many of the items listed below. But in this article, we'll assume you're going to be tent camping. That being the case, some items you may want to bring include:

  • Tent, tent fly, poles, stakes and ropes (set up the tent before leaving to be sure everything is there and you know how to put it up)
  • Hammer or hatchet (for driving tent stakes; keep it in the tent bag)
  • Ground cloth (to go under the tent and keep it clean and dry)
  • Ground pads, mattresses and/or cots
  • Pillows
  • Tarp (has many uses)
  • Lantern(s) (including fuel, mantles, funnel, batteries as necessary)
  • Folding chairs, stools, tables
  • Extension cords (for camps with electric hookups)
  • Beverage/water jugs
  • Camping shower
  • Ax, hatchet and/or shovel
  • Broom

Food

     

Plan your meals before leaving home, and make a list of all food items you'll need using your menus as a guide. Some campers like to have elaborate outdoor meals, while others prefer not to cook at all. Either way, here's a list to help you remember some of what you might need:

  • Meats (hamburger, hot dogs, steaks, bacon, sausage, chicken, etc.)
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Bread, buns, biscuits, crackers
  • Vegetables (potatoes, beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc.)
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, salad dressings, syrup, BBQ sauce, etc.)
  • Drinks (coffee, tea, sodas, Kool-aid, juice, etc.)
  • Staples (flour, corn meal, sugar, salt, pepper, herbs, spices, butter, cooking oil, etc.)
  • Snack foods, dessert ingredients

Plan your meals before leaving home, and make a list of all food items you'll need using your menus as a guide. Cooking, Food Service and Cleanup

     

The items you'll need for preparing meals, serving them and cleaning up will once again vary greatly according to your own preferences. Here are some to consider for your list:

  • Camp stove, fuel
  • Charcoal, lighter fluid
  • Firewood
  • Grill, cooking grate
  • Reflector oven
  • Skillet, pots and pans
  • Carving/cutting knives
  • Spatula, tongs, serving fork and spoon
  • Can opener
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plates, cups, bowls
  • Flatware (forks, spoons, knives)
  • Scouring pads, detergent
  • Zip-loc bags
  • Garbage bags
  • Paper towels, dish towels
  • Oven mitt, pot holder

Emergency Gear

     

"Plan for the worse and hope for the best." That old saying has merit when you're camping. Always be prepared just in case something unexpected happens by having on hand a tool kit that includes a hammer, screwdrivers, pliers and wrenches; a repair kit that contains such things as duct tape, wire, nylon twine, superglue and rope; and a first aid kit that includes all or some of the following basic items:

  • Band-Aids
  • Gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Aspirin
  • Tweezers
  • Needle
  • Moleskin
  • Single-edge razor blade
  • Antacid
  • Ace bandage
  • Diarrhea medication
  • Cold medication
  • Laxative
  • Bandages
  • Sunburn relief
  • Thermometer
  • Sting kill swabs
  • Eye drops
  • Scissors
  • Cortisone (anti-itch) cream
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Antihistamine such as Benadryl

Amenities

     

Finally, you should consider what items will keep you comfortable and amused on your camping trip. If you're car camping and have the space, you can make your campsite luxurious with such items as hanging camp lights and a hammock. Books, a radio, playing cards, your journal, art supplies, board games and musical instruments all add to a cozy domestic camping style.

     

What extracurricular activities will be part of your camping trip? List what you'll need: camera and film, field guides, binoculars, fishing tackle, hunting gear, bikes, kayaks. If you're leaving the campsite during the day, add a day pack or fanny pack to your list.

     

This list I'll leave entirely up to you. But don't forget to do it. Having fun and relaxing is what camping is all about. And now that you have a good idea what you need to pack for your trip, you can add those luxury items that are sure to help you enjoy the experience even more.

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Camping: How to Cope with Nuisance Wildlife

By Keith Sutton

 
John Q. Camper was having a nice visit. He arrived at the state park late in the morning, set up a small tent, stowed his gear and food inside, then decided to take a hike down one of the park trails. When he returned, he noticed a bag of food overturned near the entrance of the tent. He went over to check it, and that's when the skunk -- munching on Twinkies in the paper sack -- sprayed him in the face. Not only did the skunk spray temporarily blind him, it ruined his tent and everything inside.

     

At another campground, Charlie Q. Camper is trying to figure out what happened to the cookies he just opened and placed on a picnic table. He'd laid the snacks down momentarily while he walked to the restroom, and when he returned, half the package was empty. No one was in sight so he was puzzled -- but not for long. As he sat staring at the half-empty cookie bag, a jay swooped down and grabbed another Nutter Butter.

     

That incident was minor compared to what happened that night. Something awoke Charlie, something cold wriggling against his leg in his sleeping bag. He grabbed a flashlight, carefully unzipped the bag and found a small copperhead that had squeezed into the bag next to him. Charlie froze for a moment, paralyzed with fear, then carefully slid out of the bag and used a stick to lift the snake and carry it outside. He thanked his lucky stars he hadn't rolled over on the serpent and gotten bitten.

     

Little Johnny Camper wasn't quite as lucky. He was eating lunch at a picnic table with his family, and when he lifted a soda can to take a drink, a yellow-jacket stung him on the lip. Johnny is allergic to insect stings. Fortunately, his mother had brought along a sting kit containing the medicine needed to counteract Johnny's allergic reaction. She gave him a shot, and Johnny was okay except for a grossly swollen lip that was painful for several hours.

     

One reason we enjoy camping is because of the opportunities it provides to commune with Mother Nature. As the campers above learned, however, Mother Nature can sometimes be a nuisance or even dangerous. Seeing critters around camp can seem nice until those critters start causing problems.

     

There are some basic guidelines we can follow, however, to help make our experiences with wild animals less stressful for them and less dangerous for us. The first rule is to check your warm and fuzzy feelings at the door because these aren't cartoon characters. They're wild animals that can be unpredictable. It's best to discourage visits by most animals, both for your sake and the critter's.

 

Food Problems

     

As the scenarios at the beginning of this story indicate, food is one of the primary wildlife attractors in camp. It may seem like you're doing the right thing when you feed a family of hungry raccoons that visits your camp, but if one of those coons bites you, it will have to be destroyed and you'll wind up taking painful rabies shots. Nobody wins.

     

Smart campers store all foods, including dog food and horse feed, in closed, wildlife-resistant containers.

Likewise, feeding the semi-tame crow that's been coming around may seem really neat until that same crow flies off with your car keys. Crows and ravens like shiny objects almost as much as they like Oreos and potato chips.

     

Smart campers store all foods, including dog food and horse feed, in closed, wildlife-resistant containers. They also keep sleeping bags, tents and sleeping areas free of food and beverage odors. And they never sleep in clothes that were worn while cooking.

     

Keep a clean camp. After meals, wipe down tables and chairs. Wash dishes and utensils immediately and dispose of wastewater downwind, at least 100 feet from your sleeping area. Store odorous items such as garbage in wildlife-resistant containers.

     

When leaving camp, pack all food scraps and trash in sealed plastic bags and take it with you for proper disposal. When these items are left behind or buried, they attract animals to campsites, increasing the chance of bad encounters either for you or the next campers.

 

Hunting Camps

  

In hunting camps, there are additional precautions you should take, especially in areas inhabited by bears:

  • Wear gloves and an apron when dressing game to reduce odors on your clothing.
  • When you gut an animal, separate the carcass from the entrails. Then quickly remove the carcass from the area. The longer a carcass is left in the field, the greater the chance of a bear-human conflict. Be sure not to leave entrails within one mile of a trail, campsite, picnic area or parking lot.
  • Don't store game carcasses too close to camp or near a trail. Bears attracted by the smell may cause problems. You also should remember to take a pulley system and rope to camp so you can hang game and food out of reach of bears. Carcasses and food bags should be at least 10-15 feet above the ground and four feet out from the supporting structure.
  • Hang game and food items so they can be seen from a distance. This allows you to observe the items when you return. If a bear has claimed the food for itself, you can avoid it. Surrender the carcass or food to a bear if he has already begun feeding on it.
  • Knives and other tools used when dressing game should be washed thoroughly and stored with your game.

 

To prevent stings, watch for and avoid nests of stinging insects. Mosquitoes, Ticks and Other Bugs

     

Biting bugs such as mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, horseflies and gnats can quickly bring an end to your comfort around the campground, so take along something that will repel these little nasties. Citronella candles and the various bug repellent devices now on the market may help keep them away from the immediate area, but for thorough protection you may need to apply a good insect repellent to your skin.

     

For added protection, wear a hat, long-sleeve shirt and long pants. Camp in open, wind-swept areas if possible and use insect-proof tents with fine mesh screens.

     

Stinging insects such as wasps, bees, hornets, velvet ants and fire ants also can cause problems, especially for those allergic to stings. People vary in their reactions to stings. Most have only temporary discomfort. But some go into severe, sometimes fatal, shock. A doctor-prescribed medication should always be carried by people allergic to stings.

     

Stings happen when you least expect them. You drink a bee with your soda pop. You sit on a soft dirt mound of FIRE ANTS! You snag your fishing line on a limb attached to a hornet nest. You drive your tent stake through a nest of ground yellow jackets.

     

To prevent stings, watch for and avoid nests of stinging insects. Wear shoes outdoors. Don't wear perfume and bright-colored clothing outdoors as these attract stinging insects. Don't leave food exposed outside and don't swat at stinging insects.

 

Mammal Pests

     

Little critters like mice and porcupines may not cause campers the sleepless nights we often have when visiting bear country. But no one wants to wake up and find a mouse-sized hole in a brand-new backpack, or porcupine tooth-marks in a favorite pair of perfectly broken-in boots.

     

With these animals, you need to remember, it's not what you call food that counts; it's what they call food that counts! That includes cooking utensils, toothpaste, sunscreen and garbage. It can also include T-shirts, boots and the hip-belt of a pack, all of which can taste delicious to salt-loving porcupines and even deer. Natural fabrics are at risk, as well; mice use them as nesting material.

     

It's better to place such items in a pack or bag that is hung from a tree branch, even if the branch is only a few feet off the ground. Don't leave your stuff on the ground. When it's up out of the way, animals are less likely to find it.

     

It's also a good idea to keep your distance from bigger animals, even if they seem tame. A deer or elk that seems friendly could lash out with its hooves and cause serious injuries. Female animals with young can be especially unpredictable and dangerous. It's best to always keep your distance, and don't feed animals, even if they come into camp looking hungry. It's a strong temptation to feed seemingly friendly wildlife, but that accomplishes two negative ends. It makes them dependent upon human food, and it encourages them to hang around a human camp, both of which can be dangerous for them.

 

Always watch where you step and where you place your hands. Snakes

     

Snakes occasionally turn up in campsites, but you can reduce problems with them if you follow these precautions.

Camp in an area that's open, with no brush, fallen trees or rock piles nearby. Don't handle snakes or provoke them; most bites occur in this way. Learn the types of snakes likely to be encountered where you're camping, particularly venomous species, and keep your distance. Wear shoes when walking outside, and use a flashlight at night to light your path. Always watch where you step and where you place your hands. If someone in camp does get bitten, seek medical attention immediately.

A Final Word

     

This article isn't meant to discourage you from enjoying wildlife around camp. When you're doing so, however, use good judgment and a little common sense. Don't inadvertently place yourself in a situation that could cause harm to you or the animal.

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Camping Gear Repair Guide

By Jason Akl

An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but when you're in the wilderness with broken gear, a MacGyver solution will save the day.

Above all else, take good care of your gear and retire it when necessary; however, accidents can and will happen, and being prepared for them is a must. In this article, I will touch on what to do when things turn sour for a variety of equipment types. I would suggest keeping a ditty bag or stuff sack designated just for these gear first-aid items.

Tents

K-Tape Repair Tape

K-Tape is designed specifically for patching parkas, rainwear, duffels, totes, sleeping bags and tents.

Tent seams can and will rip. Seams can be reinforced with additional fabric (duct tape will suffice) and then re-sewn with a needle and strong nylon thread (fishing line if you must). For injuries to the tent wall or the floor (e.g. cinder burns from the camp fire, fireworks, stick punctures, etc.) waterproof patches with adhesive will do the trick. Hopefully, your tent came with a just-in-case repair kit that you can tuck away in your ditty bag. If not, shop for a repair kit that includes an adhesive and fabric in various sizes and shapes.

Tarps
Ripped grommets and tears can be reinforced with duct tape on the standard "blue" tarp. For lighter nylon or Gore-Tex tarps, special adhesive patch kits can be purchased.

Outerwear Fabric
Outerwear, backpacks and sleeping bags all fall into this category. The same adhesive patches used for Gore-Tex and nylon treated tarps apply here. The most durable patches are ones that are "set" with the heat of an iron.

Special adhesive patch kits should be purchased for Gore-Tex products. Straps and Buckles
Keep replacement straps and buckles in your ditty bag because these items cannot always be fixed and usually require replacement.

Stove maintenance
Camping stoves and backpacking stoves can clog, leak and even break. A maintenance kit usually comes with the stove itself, but they can also usually be purchased from the manufacturer should yours get lost. Knowing how to take apart and clean your stove ahead of time is helpful; however, few of us actually perform these tasks until there is a problem, so keeping your stove's repair instructions with the kit in a Ziploc bag is a good idea.

Sleeping Pads
Repair kits are available for inflatable and self-inflating sleeping pads. Both usually involve scratching or scoring the surface of the punctured area and then applying an adhesive and appropriate patch. However, the trickiest part of repairing an inflatable sleeping pad is actually locating the hole, which can be as small as a thorn prick or a big as a rip or tear. For the hard to find leaks, inflate as much as possible, and then submerge the pad underwater. Follow the bubbles to the hole, mark the hole with a marker, and repair when dry.

Stove Repair Kit

A stove repair kit can save the day on a long outdoor trip.

These repairs can be made from one light gear first-aid kit that can accompany you on almost any outing. You can pack all repair items in an inexpensive stuff sack or (for those paddlers out there) a tiny dry bag. Below is a checklist for basic gear repairs, but remember to make the list your own and tailor it to your needs.

Gear First Aid Kit

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