Tips and Tricks

For those  who enjoy camping and those who’ve never been camping, here you will find tested equipment, planning details, considerations, and whatever else we can throw in to make your experience easier and more enjoyable.

We plan to add one short Tip or Trick each week from those we’ve gathered over time. So stop by to see what we have on the grill each week.

Tip of the Day, Wednesday, October 18, 2011: Awareness is the Watch Word

Traveling in today’s world requires as much safety preparation as it did in pioneer days. We might have more conveniences, but we also have more types of dangers to keep in mind.

The safety tips for today deal in car travel and common sense for any type of travel.

Ask most safety experts where safety begins and you will hear “…inside your own head.” That’s particularly true today. Safety, most of the time, is a matter of being aware of your surroundings and using common sense.

Stay Alert

That phrase does not you have to slinking around corners, looking shifty and creepy. It means take in the details of things around you. This advice works just as well on trips to the grocery store as it does vacations. We all pick up signals about people’s behaviors, gestures, attitudes, etc. on an unconscious level. Bring that awareness to the foreground.

Arm yourself with that awareness. Before you take off, have contingency plans in mind that you can act on without too much thought.

If you glimpse what looks like a holdup in progress, don’t bother going into the store. Move away from that spot and call 911.

If you know you’re on a long mountain trail alone with your children, be more cautious for dangers than on a walk in the park.

Common thought and decision making can keep you out of trouble.

Chemical Deterrents

If you’re camping or hiking in bear country, carry protection. Since you can’t carry a handgun in most places—which in the long run would probably get you into more trouble, carry a can of Wasp Spray. Wasp Spray allows you to aim for the eyes, shoot from a distance, and gives you time to get away while your victim shakes its head to clear its vision.

This same spray can be used on the urban bears as well, depending on the neighborhoods you frequent. The good thing to know is that this spray does not do permanent damage to mammals when used as a deterrent. It’s legal, dependable, and cheap.

Car Travel and Camping

Car travel for many has become both joy and economically more sensible. Sometimes, whether you get the tent out or not, you need to take a nap during a long drive. That’s why states invented a solution.

It’s been our experience that there are rest areas and there are Rest Areas. Some visitor’s centers also double as temporary nap stations. We refer to such periods of slumber as car camping since no tent is involved.

When you first get out of the car and begin your stretching routine, use the opportunity to take a good look around. Ask yourself:

·        How well maintained is the facility

·        How many people are parked and moving around?

·        How many truckers are using the facility?

·        What is the lighting situation? Are they all lit—if it’s after dark?

These questions force you to pay attention. Don’t risk yourself or your vehicle in a place where you’re vulnerable. If the rest stop isn’t maintained well, has half its street lights not working, etc. go to the next possible rest area.

Next time, safety will continue with the camp kitchen and first aid. Until then, practice awareness. It’s a good skill in its own right.

Tip of the Day, October 5, 2011: Outfitting the Camp Kitchen

For less than $10 you can go to any discount retailer and purchase a sturdy plastic storage tub with a locking lid. They come in a variety of sizes. Purchase one that will keep you camp kitchen organized. Be sure to buy one that won’t consume the entire storage capacity of your vehicle.

Remember that you have people, sleeping bags, tent, clothing, backpacks, and numerous other paraphernalia to put in the same vehicle. Let’s assume you get a lidded tub that measures 2’L x 2’W x 18”D. That doesn’t sound or look like a lot of space to store a kitchen, but it is.

You don’t need tons of cooking utensils or pots and pans. Try the following combination for practicality. NOTE: Don’t use your good cookware or dinnerware for camping. Garage sale finds are especially good for camping kitchen items.

  1.           ·         1 heavy Teflon griddle—pancakes, meats, hashbrowns, eggs, grilled veggies, etc.
  2. ·         1 med. Dutch Oven—steamed veggies, soups, stews, etc.
  3. ·         1 sm. Saucepan—everything else
  4. ·         1 sturdy camp coffee pot—hot water for tea, coffee, and cocoa, plus dish water  
  5. ·         1 plate, cup, and bowl per camper, plus a few lg. disposable picnic plastic glasses
  6. ·         Utensils include: 1 teflon spatula, 1 big stirring spoon, 1 ladle, 1 big fork, one metal spatula, plus one fork, spoon and knife for each camper.
  7. ·         1 jar peanut butter, 1 loaf bread, 1 box Instant oatmeal (for easy breakfasts and snacks on the road)
  8. ·         Salt and pepper, artificial sweeteners if normally used, and whichever sm. Bottles of culinary herbs you routinely use and can’t do without.

This list looks unwieldy and way too much for that recommended plastic tub. If you pack right and tight, you’ll have no trouble getting all of that into the kitchen box. Bottles of herbs and the like can go inside the dutch oven which on the bottom.

The griddle (substitutes for skillets and large sauce pan) can stand on its edge against the wall of the container. The coffee pot can store your traveling bags of coffee and/powdered creamer. It will all fit if you pack the box as if you’re moving across country. You want to use every inch of space to full advantage. This also discourages breakage if using other than melmaline dishware.

Once you have the kitchen box and your cooler (you were planning on taking a cooler, weren’t you?) you’re ready for your camping experience in your outdoor kitchen. Buy your to-be-prepared foods each day or two. Have fun with this experience. Experiment with your meals. Shish-ka-bobs on the grill can be a fun and healthy way to prepare a meal. Ka-bobs on a bed of salad or rice take little time to prepare and is easy clean-up, which keeps the camp cook happy.

Avoid using meats for every meal. You don’t need it and it tempts the wildlife in the area where you’re camping. In the long run, you’re better off to reduce the cooking of meat in camp. Think of it as a safety measure.

Whether you’re in bear country or cougar territory or someplace in between, there are other animals that can be as dangerous in their own right. Always keep safety in the forefront of your planning.

In the next installment I’ll be talking about safety measures that make sense and don’t cost a fortune.

Tips for Wednesday September 21, 2011

Everyone is budget conscious these days. Camping can help relieve some of the vacation budget burden, but the camper must be careful to get the best value for the buck.

We found out the hard way last winter just how expensive most campgrounds have become. Tent camping alone has become outrageous. If you don’t want to spend $35-$45 per night to pitch a tent, there are affordable alternatives.

Thoroughly research your intended camping area of preference. We had researched and still got the shock of our lives in the end. For example, if you want to camp in the mountains in the summer with your family, you can think of this list of what you need to look for.

·   Most private campgrounds, state parks, and all national parks have websites to give you more information that you can handle in half an hour. Look for each type of park, take note of prices given for campsites (both tent and RV), whether that includes electrical and water availability, shower facilities, etc. Once you have that info, call each of your possible parks and verify rates for your tent site. You may be surprised that they’ve changed.

·  If your first preference area ends up being out of your wallet’s league, look to the next possible area close by to explore and repeat the procedure. Continue until you’re satisfied. It may be, if you’re honest with yourself, which you simply can’t afford to travel far for that camping adventure. If that’s the case, try an area of your home state that you haven’t seen before. Your gasoline budget will thank you for it, too.

·  Make your reservations well in advance. Mountain areas, like beach communities, fill up quickly months in advance on the reservations calendars. Any heavy tourist area has the same problem.

·  Whatever you think you need to make this planned trip for the time desired, expect to extend that budget by at least one third to one half. Prices shift without warning when you’re away from home. The same rule holds true for your budget. If needs flexibility. Weather, medical situations, etc. can all contribute to putting you and your loved ones into a motel for a few days. That will cripple a budget that’s too rigidly thrifty, and destroy any joy you’ve had in the trip up to that point.

·  Now you’re ready to begin assembling your list of ABSOLUTE necessities for the trip. If you have your heart set on camping but your vehicle is too small to take you, your family and all that camping gear, consider the cost of renting the camping gear at the vacation area. The rental costs may be offset by the need to purchase what you don’t have stored in the garage and by the gas mileage gained by not having to tote all that weight to get there.

·  Remember, no matter what you think you need it can be reduced. We packed for one year of road travel and camping, and still had items that we didn’t need with us. Be stingy with clothing. Be generous with the laundry budget. You’re transportation with thank you for it.

These considerations can be used for any vacation trip, regardless of destination, duration, or number of people going. If you’re not camping, you can still utilize the method by substituting motels and hotels for campgrounds and parks. You can substitute air fare or train fare for gasoline costs and parking fees.

Heck, the cheapest camping experience is along the nearest creek or grandpa’s big backyard.

Next time on Tips and Tricks I’ll expand on camping gear to take along for those who’re determined to have that experience with their family. I’ll detail the kind of kitchen box that goes a long way to making camp cooking a pleasure rather than a nightmare.

NOTE: The time to begin that research is now for next summer. All you have to do to begin is make a decision. Where you are going to go?

Tip for Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You may have overlooked them in the grocery story if you don’t have children. Stop in the cleaning supply aisle and check out the disposable wipes. Whether disinfecting with Clorox, washing hands and face, or more personal places on the anatomy, these should always accompany the traveler, especially when going by car.

Kleenex produces a personal hygiene wipe packet that takes little space in the toiletry bag. Handi-Wipes flaunt their entrees for cleaning kids or adults, or even the pooch. Other brands have their own products for use at home or on the road.

DO NOT use any of these wipes on car windows. A residue is left behind that’s becomes its own problem when used on glass of any kind. Instead, Windex and other brands of glass cleaners have their own wipes specifically for glass or countertops. Armoural has wipes strictly for vinyl upholstery and tires.

When planning your trip, take into consideration that there will be times when you can’t get to a sink to wash your hands and face. Anti-bacterial gels are fine for hands, but not for the face. Wipes will do the trick and be convenient at the same time.

We keep a small bag in the car at all times with a variety of wipes. Gas stations aren’t always handy for clearing the windshield of pesky insect residue. A glass-cleaner wipe can take care of it in no time.

And if  you’re at home and find that no matter how much you work on that windshield you can’t get it clean, try using those little foaming bubbles. They work great on bumpers, too.

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