Got Camping Questions?

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CampingGuy QuestionsAs we enter into a new camping season in North America I’m sure a lot campers and would-be campers and starting to think about the new camping season.  So, I wanted to offer The Camping Guy readers a little Q&A capability to answer any questions that you have as you embark on your next camping trip.

Questions like: what do I pack for a family of four? How do I get my kids involved in my love for camping?  Or, maybe some questions on camping gear, and of course my favorite…food!  The best part of camping is that the food tastes much better!! :-)

So go ahead…ask The Camping Guy a question by hitting the Comments button at the bottom of this article.  That way you can all share your questions and answers with each other.  Go ahead don’t be shy, I know you’ve got a question…….

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How To Rejuvenate With A One-Day Camping Trip

Tent In The ForestThe hustle and bustle of each busy day you experience can catch up with you and leave you feeling drained. This is a great reason to take time to enjoy Mother Nature and reconnect with the beautiful things that make our planet so worthwhile. At the same time, I understand how difficult it is to get away from your responsibilities to go camping and have outdoor fun. In the spirit of helping you enjoy camping and the great outdoors, here’s how I have a simple, loosely scheduled, one-day camping trip at a popular public campground and marina near my home, much like one near you.

  • 5 days in advance: Reserve a one-nighter with nearby campgrounds and purchase inexpensive pop-up tent, if you don’t already have one. More on tents.
  • 1 day in advance: pack tent, sleeping bag, pillow, Swiss Army knife, water, small stove, frying pan, mess kit, book, flash light and digital camera. Keep it simple and under control. Easy clean up is a must.
  • Morning of: Pack can of beans or spaghetti, fruit, cookies, water, pre-made pancake mix, butter and small amount of syrup (for one) in a small, portable ice cooler with frozen cooler pack inside. Consider also tossing in granola bars, trail mix, nuts or whatever other convenient foods you like.

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Here’s A Method To Help Campers Shape Up

Walking the DogLiving in the U.S. can often mean plenty of fatty foods during the holidays and fast food when we’re busy. The stress on our hearts and weight is astonishing! The great outdoors can be very helpful with health and weight loss. Just a quick jog or a long walk in your neighborhood once a day is so good for your body. And of course, those who camp often look forward to the healthy benefits of a hike, walk or the vigorous activity of simply setting up your campsite. However, in order to feel your best for your camping trip, and to ensure you’ll be comfortable with that hike, shaping up before you go is a good idea. So here’s some great ideas on how to shape up before you head out on your next camping trip.

Just a 10-15 minute walk daily can greatly improve calorie burning, weight loss and circulation, among many other things. But more than that, once you break that initial lazy, hold-back on yourself, you’ll find that you enjoy walking. Exercise of any caliber causes the body to be stimulated, which in turn releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are what cause happiness and satisfaction in our moods. So get out there and walk every day for just a bit. You will enjoy your camping trip even more!

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Quick Camping Meals In 5 Minutes

Easy Camping FoodThe Camping Guy brings you great recipes for your camping needs. From breakfast to dessert, these are quick and convenient ways to eat while camping out – for the non-cookers. For the quick and convenient crowd that don’t want to mess around, I suggest:

  • Breakfast - For a quick breakfast when you are unable to cook try granola and vanilla yogurt and with ripe pears and raisins is a great way to start your day. If you prefer something more traditional but still can’t cook, chop up some pearl onions, tomatoes, cooked chicken or turkey and toss them into a tortilla with some seasoning and pepper. Add other fresh vegetables, cheese or cream to suit your taste!
  • Lunch - is always a great meal for easy camping since it requires no cooking. Sandwiches are always the obvious choice but those sandwiches can be fresh and seasonal with these great topping ideas: hummus, sprouts, squash, avocado, tomato, basil, and carrot – for the vegans and cold cuts for the rest of us. If sandwiches aren’t appealing, salads are another great way to go. For a fun, seasonal salad topping, try almonds, cashews or pistachios. One of the Scout Masters would always make a “garbage salad” when we went camping. He’d cut up all the salad fixings and put them in a green garbage bag, add nuts and pour in half a bottle of salad dressing and shake. Tasted great!

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Food Safety While Camping

Camping Food!The best part of camping is the food….right? I enjoy cooking some of my favorite dishes and especially trying a new recipe in my Dutch Oven. But, getting the food to camp and making sure it stays fresh without any hassles or ill affects can be a challenge that can easily be remedied if you keep a few things in mind.

While transporting the food consider this:

  • Keep cold food cold, at or below 40°F. Make up a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs, just for food and one just for drinks. This way every time you reach for a drink you aren’t going to affect the meat you have packed for dinner.
  • If possible, pack meat, poultry, and seafood while it’s still frozen so that it stays cold longer. Always keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separately wrapped (I prefer ziplock bags) so their juices don’t contaminate cooked foods or other foods in the cooler, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep the food cooler in the air conditioned passenger compartment of your car, not in the hot trunk. And try to reduce the number of times you open the cooler.

Once at the campsite and you’re getting ready to prepare one of your delicious meals…remember:

  • Wash your hands! Ya..I know, I sound like your Mom. But I know how difficult it can be to get some water, soap and wash your hands when your camping. Have someone pour the water jug over you hands, use some soap and towel off. If water is at a premium you can use anti-bacterial hand wipes. :-)
  • While “prepping” the food, keep all utensils and platters clean. All the things you would normally do at home…right? I know! I even forget sometimes in a camping setting.

If you’re grilling, here’s a few more things to consider:

  • I like to marinate and will put the meat in ziplock bags with the marinate right into the cooler. Any marinate I want to use as a sauce I put in another separate bag.
  • When grilling make sure everything is cooked. Sometimes when I grill over a fire, not a BBQ, I have to watch that some of the food doesn’t get under-cooked because the fire is not burning evenly.

Above all, enjoy your food. There’s something that happens to food when you cook it outdoors at a campout. It just seems to bring out all the natural flavors. I can taste them now, can you?

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Firewood Banned in Some States

Firewood BanThinking of bringing your own firewood to your campout? Hold on…and read this. The U.S. Forest Service is encouraging campers not to bring their own firewood. Why? Because insect infested firewood is causing billions of dollars in forest damage.

Many campers travel hundreds of miles or across state lines to go camping and they bring their own firewood and the insects with them. The spread of insects is so harmful that several Midwestern states are banning firewood from out of state. Parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Maryland are covered by federal and state quarantines to try to prevent infested lumber or wood products from being shipped out. Forest Service officials advise campers to get their firewood at or near their campsite. So, pass on this information to your fellow campers!

Go to the Utah Desert News for the full story.

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Cold Weather Camping Tips - Part 2

As I was sitting watching my son’s lacrosse game in 48° F weather, which is very cold for Southern California, I noticed all the parents standing around freezing their butts off to cheer on their boys. What spirit! What foolishness. With a couple of helpful tips they could be warm and cozy just like me on the sidelines cheering for my boy. I thought to myself, they would surely perish on a campout! Then it occurred to me that I have given you some tips on staying warm at night while camping, but nothing about staying warm during the day. So, this is a good time to do it. And you don’t have to use this information just for camping. It will work at soccer, football or lacrosse games. :-)

When I looked around the sidelines there were about 50+ parents and maybe twenty had hats or hooded jackets on. You lose most of your body heat from your head! So, that was the first reason some were freezing. Even a baseball hat, which I had on, will keep your heat trapped in your body.

Layering is the next most important technique. I saw folks with t-shirts and windbreakers and one poor guy in just a sweatshirt. Not a bad start, but a couple more layers would have helped. Try a t-shirt, sweatshirt and then a jacket/wind breaker. And don’t forget gloves.

Finally, the best tip I can give you when cold weather camping is to make sure you are active during the day. Take a hike, go on a nature walk, or visit a nearby historical site. Just remember to keep active and you will keep warm. In the evening when the sun goes down you will have a campfire and warm food in your belly to keep you warm and ready for a good night’s sleep. Have fun…but stay warm!

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Camping Report - San Mateo Campground

Hi there! A number of you asked for reports on campgrounds that I have visited so I thought I would start to do this and will add more over time. If you have any favorite campgrounds or not so favorite, tell the rest of us by commenting on the Blog.

This weekend we went to San Mateo Park, in south Orange County. This park is inland from the world famous Tressels beach! This is a favorite local beach for surfers and hosts a number of professional surfing events throughout the year. But, back to the campground…which is about 1.5 miles from the beach, directly inland. There’s 160 campsites with toilets, showers, fire pits and flat easy ground for camping. We went with the Boy Scouts to do some skills training and check out our new tents before Camporee. We were in campsites 134-137 (see the map for details). The campsites are a bit dense packed, but our neighbors were friendly and not noisy. I discovered while walking around the campground that the bigger sites are at the end of the campground in the 150-155 area. So, if you are looking for more room, try to reserve those campsites.

Marshmallow Roast

Souts had a great time as you can see from the marshmallow-roasting picture. For campground map and information on reservations follow the More link.

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Caring for Your Tent

Care for your tent and it will take care of you.

I wrote about how to choose the right tent in the last two postings, so I thought it only right to tell about how to take care of your tent.

Here are some TIPS on how to make your tent last many seasons:

  • Use a ground cloth under your tent. This will protect the floor from rocks and twigs and keep moisture from seeping through. HOT TIP: Always tuck the edges of your ground cloth beneath the floor of your tent so that rainwater will not collect on the ground cloth and run under the tent. :-(
  • Take off boots or shoes when entering the tent.
  • Keep the inside clean by sweeping or tipping it up and shaking out debris.
  • Never store a wet or damp tent. This will cause mildew - yuck! When you get home from a wet campout put the tent over a clothesline, fence or patio chairs to dry it out. If the weather won’t permit this, hang the tent on a couple of nails in the garage. But, make sure you dry it out.
  • Seal the seams of your tent. When I buy a new tent I also purchase some sealer. I setup the tent in the backyard and seal the seams. This also allows me to become familiar with the setup and take down of my new tent!
  • NEVER store food in your tent. Critters will tear a hole in your tent to get that food. Store food in your car.

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How to Choose the Right Tent for Your Campout

What makes a tent right for your family and its camping needs? Let me show you how to pick the correct tent that fits your budget and how to take care of it so it will last for many happy camping seasons.

As a first-time camper you will rely on a tent for shelter for you and your family. Not only shelter from the wind, rain and morning dew, but also from pesky bugs. No, not your kids, those bugs that fly. :-) There are a great variety of tents available for your camping adventure. For your purposes you will want a tent that is light and portable. Most of the tents in the market today have double-thick nylon or polyester walls, dual-zippered doors, screening, a rain fly and shock-cord poles that fold up neatly into a small package. The four most important factors to consider when choosing a tent are:

1. Season
2. Size
3. Strength
4. Shape

1. Season - there are typically three- and four-season tents available. Three-season tents are for spring, summer and fall. They typically have mosquito or “No-see-um” netting panels that zip-in and allow plenty of warm weather ventilation. The one I have has bug panels and a nylon panel. I can roll up the interior nylon panel out of the way giving the tent a screen door effect. When I roll up the panel in the rear of the tent I can get a nice cross breeze during summer camping and keep the bugs out. In the fall the panel stays zipped-up to break the wind.

Four-season tents are built for winter camping and may have extra poles for stability and thicker panels and outer shell. Since I don’t imagine any of you doing this right away, just tuck this information away for when you need it.

2. Size - tents are marked as 2-person, 3-person, etc. Regardless of how they are “rated” you need to pick a tent that suits your space requirements for all your campers and your gear. I have found that a 2-person tent will barely fit two campers and have no room for your gear. A 4-person tent gives two campers lots of elbowroom and space to stow your gear. As a “rule of thumb” add 2 to the number of campers you want in the tent and you will have enough room. So, for a family of 4, pick a 6-person tent.

If you can, borrow or rent different tents and take them on overnight campouts to see what they are like. I’ve also found that some sporting goods stores have tents set-up in their showrooms. Find one you think will fit your needs and crawl around in it. Check out the size, comfort, quality of construction and most importantly, the ease of setting up and taking down.

I can remember taking my kids with me to the local sporting goods store and having them get in the tents with me, zipping up the tent and laying down inside to see how it felt to them. I also wanted to see if they could work the zippers without any trouble.

I will cover the next two sections in my next post.

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