Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Art of Preparing for a Camping Trip

Alpine Lakes Trail - Great Basin National park

I am planning an upcoming car & tent camping trip and here are some things I have learned along the way.

1) Start early in preparing. Last time I camped (and it has been awhile!), I promised myself I would go through the camping "kitchen" box and clean it out, update it, add a few items, etc. Well, when we got home from our last camping trip, we put everything away, and I never did get around to that camp kitchen box.
This week, in anticipation of our upcoming trip, I got my daughter to help me drag the kitchen box out of the garage. Now our garage doubles as a squirrel haven, so things get a bit messy. We knocked some stray walnuts off the lid, opened the container and my daughter said "These dishes are kind of dusty, Mom." Thank goodness for the quick wash button on the dishwasher. In re-packing the box, I noticed we needed some things for our next trip. I like to have this kitchen box up to date. It is part of my emergency preparedness. We headed to the dollar store and bought some large spoons for cooking and serving, 2 dish pans for washing and rinsing dishes, a couple of serrated knives for cutting things like tomatoes, and some fresh salt and pepper in shakers. I dug through a kitchen drawer and added some hot pads, dish rags, and towels. My kitchen box has basic dishes (some paper, some more durable), mixing bowls, a set of camping pots and pans, a non-stick frying pan,matches, garbage bags, freezer bags, and some containers for leftover food. It also has a can opener and dish soap.

Update your kitchen box.

In a separate picnic bag, I have paper towels, paper plates, cups, utensils, and a tablecloth. We will use that at the campsite and when we are picnicking from our car. (For more tips on picnicking on the road, click here.)

2) Good equipment makes a difference. We are car campers. Several years ago we bought a small tent from a local sporting goods store that was going out of business. It served us well when our kids were small, but as they grew and we felt a bit more adventuresome, we thought we should invest in roomier, sturdier tent. One year we took our little tax refund and bought a nice canvas tent that holds all five of us fairly comfortably.  Again, I figure this tent is part of my emergency preparedness supplies. We have used it several times, and it still looks new. Now last time we went camping, it rained all while we were trying to set up camp, all through dinner, and on into the evening. The small tent (which was to hold a couple kids), was too wet and not up to the weather. We didn't have rain ponchos. We didn't have a tarp or canopy or anything to protect our cooking/eating area. We did have garbage bags, so everyone put one on for some protection from the rain,  and we assembled a cold dinner with our pre-cooked taco meat. We ate quickly, and then retreated to our tent for a damp night. The tent held up pretty well, though. It was a good investment.  New equipment this year:  rain ponchos, tarps, rope.

Our tent was a great investment.

3)  The more you prepare ahead of time, the easier camp life will be. This year I am planning on stringing up at least one tarp for shade and rain protection in camp. I searched online for images of the campground, and it looks like there are trees we can use when putting up the tarps. Everyone has a rain poncho, and I am taking umbrellas, and garbage bags to put things in so they don't get wet. I have also made some food ahead of time and have done my shopping for this trip.  Since we don't camp really often, and since this is my vacation for the summer, I want to have good food, so I am putting in a little more effort at home so that cooking at camp is easier. Garbage bags can also be used to keep firewood and kindling dry. We have re-fueled our camp stove as well, and have charcoal for the Dutch oven.

Preparing dry ingredients ahead of time makes camp cooking easier.

4)  Check your batteries before you go. Every battery powered flashlight and camping lantern we own had dead batteries, and there was not a spare "D" battery in the house! During that shopping trip I bought new batteries for all of our lights, and we should make it through the camping trip just fine. I am making a note for myself to get more batteries to have on hand at home. These lights are what we use during power outages, and clearly we were unprepared.

5)  Plan Activities, and then Let the Trip Happen. I find it is good to research where we are going and to plan things to do while we are there. However, part of the beauty of a camping trip is to have time to just hang out at camp and not do a whole lot. On this trip I have games we can play at camp (in the tent if it is raining), and I always take a book to read. We are planning on a hike and visiting a cave. Beyond that, we will just see what each day brings. I have bird books and binoculars for bird watching, a star book for stargazing, and plenty of snacks. It will take me almost as many days to get ready for this trip as we will spend camping, but hopefully the extra preparation will make for a more relaxed trip!

Happy Camping!