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Camping Tips

picture of a tent

This past weekend my son Mark and I went camping with my best friend Phil and his three sons - an event that has been happily repeated through many years. Now that our sons are all in their twenties, we don't know how many more of these we'll be able to do with all six of us there. It was a fabulous weekend - so enjoyable and relaxing! We enjoyed having Sliding Rock almost to ourselves. (Who else was crazy enough to plunge into 55 degree water?) The fall colors up in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina were not quite at their peak, but they were further along than they are here in Greenville. I had taken my digital camera along to capture some Kodak moments, but we were so busy enjoying ourselves all weekend that I forgot to pull the camera out. Some blogger I am, huh?!

We've done this so much that we have most of the details down pat. However because my 35-year-old Coleman stove, which I had been able to light just fine in our driveway last week, decided that it would not light Saturday morning. We had to take a quick trip to the store to get a replacement for my stove and for Phil's air mattress that lost its air Friday night. (Mine didn't lose its air until Saturday night.) There were a couple of other items we wished we had brought along, but none that we felt like we had to buy to get through the weekend.

Below are some camping tips for you. I'll start off with a story.

Setting Up Camp

The loaded mini-van pulled into the only remaining campsite. Four children leaped from the vehicle and began feverishly unloading gear and setting up the tent. The boys rushed to gather firewood, while the girls and their mother set up the camp stove and cooking utensils.

A nearby camper marveled to the youngsters' father, "That, sir, is some display of teamwork."

The father replied, "I have a system - no one is allowed to go to the bathroom until the campsite is set up."

Camping Tips

Get even with a bear who raids your food bag by kicking his favorite stump apart and eating all the ants.

Old socks can be made into high fiber beef jerky by smoking them over an open fire.

When smoking a fish, never inhale.

A hot rock placed in your sleeping bag will keep your feet warm. A hot enchilada works almost as well, but the cheese sticks between your toes.

The best backpacks are named for national parks or mountain ranges. Steer clear of those named for landfills.

Acupuncture was invented by a camper who found a porcupine in his sleeping bag.

While the Swiss Army Knife has been popular for years, the Swiss Navy Knife has remained largely unheard of. Its single blade functions as a tiny canoe paddle.

Effective January 1, 1997, you will actually have to enlist in the Swiss Army to get a Swiss Army Knife.

Lint from your navel makes a handy fire starter. Warning: Remove lint from navel before applying the match.

When using a public campground, a tuba placed on your picnic table will keep the campsites on either side vacant.

You'll never be lost if you remember that moss always grows on the north side of your compass.

You can duplicate the warmth of a down-filled bedroll by climbing into a plastic garbage bag with several geese.

When camping, always wear a long-sleeved shirt. It gives you something to wipe your nose on.

You can compress the diameter of your rolled up sleeping bag by running over it with your car.

A two-man pup tent does not have enough room for two men and does not include a pup.

A potato baked in the coals for one hour makes an excellent side dish. A potato baked in the coals for three hours makes an excellent hockey puck.

You can start a fire without matches by eating Mexican food, then breathing on a pile of dry sticks.

In emergency situations, you can survive in the wilderness by shooting small game with a slingshot made from the elastic waistband of your underwear.

The guitar of the noisy teenager at the next campsite makes excellent kindling.

Check the washing instructions before purchasing any apparel to be worn camping. Buy only those that read "Beat on a rock in stream."

The sight of a bald eagle has thrilled campers for generations. The sight of a bald man, however, does absolutely nothing for the eagle.

It's entirely possible to spend your whole vacation on a winding mountain road behind a large motor home.

In an emergency, a drawstring from a parka hood can be used to strangle a snoring tent mate.


Those camping tips, of course, were in jest. I hope my readers who enjoy camping will post some of their real favorite camping tips. Do you have any great tips to share?


"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients." - Julia Child

=^..^= =^..^=

A great deal of hostility can be released when camping in the fall by using campaign literature of politicians for toilet paper. (I'm ivman, and I so approve this message!)

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17 Comments on “Camping Tips”

  1. #1 Anna
    on Oct 13th, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    G’day Rob
    The best tip for camping… Always bring about three extra pairs of socks, somehow the others always seem to get wet, (or eaten as beef jerky!!)
    Thanks for this one – it was a great laugh.

  2. #2 Dave
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 12:07 am

    This post reminds me of the famous Sherlock Holmes/Dr Watson joke: http://wilderdom.com/jokes/SherlockCamping.html

    And by the way, how in the world did Lewis and Clark make it without a Coleman stove? They must’ve packed Nutri-Grain bars (strawberry and blueberry flavors) so they wouldn’t need a stove… I need to look into that for my blog I guess.

    Very fun post. Thanks!

  3. #3 Ginny Layman
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I married a man who knows his business when it comes to campfires and cooking. While grumpily snuggled in my sleeping bag, I watched him actually started a fire in the rain and cook a delicious breakfast.
    My daughter-in-law discovered that Whip-poor-Wills, when perched right over the tent sing non-stop from 4:00 to 6:00 AM in full volume.

  4. #4 Janet
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 9:52 am

    My best camping tip: pull the camper into the parking lot of a good hotel and check-in for the night!

    Seriously, I always had a box of large plastic garbage bags (wrapped in a large plastic garbage bag) stowed away that was not for trash. They were used for emergency tarps, emergency rain coats, emergency laundry bags, emergency car seat covers, and safety cover for back side for impromptu slides down the river rocks!

  5. #5 Rob
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 10:13 am

    @Anna – good tip about the extra socks. Yes, there always seems to be something wet to step in…. 🙂

    @Dave – Thanks for both the literary and historical perspectives on camping! Glad you enjoyed the “tips.”

    @Ginny – You’re fortunate to have such a campfire-savvy husband! That’s usually our chief challenge, especially on the first evening – getting a campfire going with little or no kindling. Then, as you mentioned, there’s the rain! We were fortunate this past weekend – basically perfect weather!

    @Janet – I know many who live by your first tip … the one about “camping out” in a hotel. Your serious tip was a good one. I had lots of plastic garbage bags along. I wish I’d thought to stick some in Mark’s truck for our post-Sliding Rock ride back to the campsite. :-/

  6. #6 Doodie
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I never understood the attraction to camping. My family loaded up a Chevy stationwagon with 6 kids, 2 parents, and one grandmother and drove from Columbus, Ohio, to Seatle, Washington (for the World’s Fair). I loved traveling in the car, but the cooking, washing, lack of bathrooms/showers, and sleeping with 8 other people never quite tickled my fancy. Give me a berth on a cruise ship anyday!

  7. #7 Vikki
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Mosquito repellent is one of my best suggestions, especially if you’ll be camping in a wooded area and a definite necessity if you’re heading up north. Being from the Illinois/Wisconsin area, we’ve seen them so bad that the first thing you did before dashing off to the necessary house in the morning was to spray yourself down. Those who neglected to bring any were literally covered in bites. We also sprayed the tent door screen which seemed to help keep them out of the tent.

    Another thing to have on hand is a small broom and dustpan. I’m always amazed at how much gets tracked into the tent. Getting out of bed is most unpleasant when sand or grit is covering the floor and having to carefully brush off your feet before getting into bed is also a pain. No matter how hard you try, it seems the stuff still ends up under the covers.

  8. #8 Lynnette
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    One of those unforgettable camping memories took place on the Tigert River in WV. We camped right next to it and there was a terrific rainstorm! The river overflowed its banks in the early morning. I remember mom and dad getting us out of the tent then dismantling it and packing up the van in the pouring rain. We then proceeded to get a bite to eat at the camp ground lodge. I’m sure we looked like drowned rats!

  9. #9 Dawn
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Camping tips! Thanks. The Creative Services group has a camping trip planned for this weekend. Around 25 people going. I’ll let you know if I had to use the drawstring from the parka 🙂

  10. #10 TrevorLee
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    My wife usually makes up a big plastic container of pasta/veg salad, and another one of chicken salad to take on camping trips. All you have to do is keep it nice and cool.

    Other essentials are bug spray (with neem if you can find it), sunscreen, and a small “basic” medicine cabinet, such as aspirin/ibuprofen, heartburn tablets (we carry pepcid completes, and benadryl (you never know when you might react to something or get bit by a bug).

    Good lightweight snacks include granola (home-made of course), beef jerky, and small cracker packs.

    Finally, dress in layers…in some areas the temp can be as much as 40 degrees different between day and night (such as this past weekend here in central NC).

    GREAT article, very very entertaining, and for sure a nice read after having been camping our own selves this past weekend at Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival ( http://shakorihills.org ) thanks for sharing!

  11. #11 Michael
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    I would enjoy camping if you didn’t have to actually spend the night there. So, I’m much more partial to hiking. Enjoying the great outdoors but being home by dark in order to enjoy a good night of rest.

    And, I’m sure, Rob, that you and your son and Phil and his sons caused no small stir among the wildlife population this past weekend. You all probably contributed to it. The wildlife population that is. 🙂

  12. #12 Rob
    on Oct 14th, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    @Doodie – I’m sorry that your camping experience of earlier days was so rough. There have been some fine improvements in camping supplies in recent years. Having never been on a cruise, I’d like to try one sometime. Maybe my readers could send ivwoman and me on a cruise…. Imagine the blog posts I could come up with after that! 😀

    @Vikki – Those are a couple of great tips! Sunday when we were taking things apart, we wished that one of us had remember a whisk broom and dustpan. As for me, I live in socks on camping trips, even when I sleep and end up with very little grit in my sleeping bag.

    @Lynnette – Your camping trip sounds like some we’ve been on. We normally bill ourselves as “drought relief” when we go. The weather this past weekend was basically perfect, but it had rained several days before we went up there. I commented to Phil, “What is there about our going camping that causes kindling that has been dry for months to get all wet?”

    @Dawn – I look forward to hearing about the big camp out this weekend! I think you’ll have a blast with that many people that you know. What one person forgets to take along, surely someone else will remember. You guys should be all set, especially with all of Larry’s experience of sleeping out in rice fields of Viet Nam.

    @TrevorLee – Thanks for the great tips! I’ll have to tuck those away for my next camping trip. I definitely do the layering of clothes camping in the mountains of NC. The temperature range in a day’s time is quite wide!

    @Michael – As always, your comment brought a smile and a laugh. 🙂 I actually enjoy day trips up to that part of the world when I can’t go camping up there (see my post (non)-Olympic moments? to read about such a day about two months ago. I assure you that the our presence did indeed cause a stir among the wildlife as we participated with the wildlife. We’re probably often wilder than the wildlife itself. 😀

  13. #13 Tiffany
    on Oct 15th, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I love camping. Ever since I can remember, my family has gone camping at least twice a year, but usually four or more times. But I have to admit I prefer to go camping with a motorhome than with a tent. We get the best of both worlds! We can eat warm meals, (inside or outside depending on whether or not it’s raining), have a restroom and shower with us, sleep in nice beds, avoid most of the bugs, and not have to worry about getting wet when it rains. Plus, we can still hop right outside and enjoy the great outdoors just as much as we could from a tent!

  14. #14 Janel
    on Oct 15th, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Camping is one of those family vacations taken when you don’t have the funds to do anything else; or so it was growing up in my family 🙂

    The 2 most notable (and ended up being the last) camping trips we took consisted of having a wild boar completely ravage through our campsite to which the 6 of us ended up huddled in our tent hoping he wouldn’t stampede us in it; then having to drive down to the convenience store the next morning for new food/supplies. The following year, after perching our tent on what seemed to be the perfect campsite, the rains started coming down which was ok until water started coming up from the ground. It was then we realized we were camped right on top of a spring. After that, my mom called it quits on camping out! We laugh about it now during family get-togethers but it sure wasn’t funny then.

  15. #15 Katy
    on Oct 15th, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Awww, no pictures. But you’ve got the memories. You gave me an idea, we will use campaign literature to line our rabbit cage….

  16. #16 Rob
    on Oct 16th, 2008 at 7:08 am

    @Tiffany – When our kids were little, we actually owned a one-third share in an old pop-up camper and thoroughly enjoyed it. It had a few leaky places that we had to put tarps over, but it was truly a comfortable way to camp. When it would no longer pop up (which was the thing that made it usable), we all sold the camper to a handyman type who was able to fix it and continue using it. So I know a little bit about what you’re describing, but we’re back to “slumming it” again in campgrounds.

    @Janel – Wow! What adventures in camping! Someone wrote me to say that I should do a blog post on camping (mis)adventures. Your comment is making me want to do just that! Yikes!

    @Katy – I’m glad to know that my blog is actually useful to someone! 🙂 May your rabbits enjoy those pieces of literature that seem so well suited for that!

  17. #17 Anna B
    on Dec 23rd, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Oh man…these made me laugh so hard my tummy’s aching right now! Thank you for your great blog, I received the link to it a few days ago from a friend and am having lots of fun reading every single post. 😀