Have Fun Camping
Whether you've been a camper for years or are just learning about this great fun, check out my page and see what you think. I'll share a little of my camping experiences, a few tricks I follow, and anything else camping related that strikes my fancy.
Camping is incredibly fun, but only when you know what you're doing. Learn from others and make your camping trip go smoothly.
Picture by me, AlishaV
How to Have Fun at Camp
Camping is super fun, but for some people, they'll never get into it. Why? Maybe they had a bad experience, it rained on them, they didn't have the proper equipment, or they were bored. But almost everyone can enjoy camping. Being out, closer to nature, and tossing off the shackles of civilization is wonderful for the mind, body, and spirit. How do you make each camping trip fun and enjoyable though? There are a few things to consider:
Be prepared. This may sound silly, but the number one reason I see people saying they hate camping is because they didn't have the proper equipment, or any equipment. Rain on a camping trip sounds horrible, but it's actually really fun, sitting inside the nice cozy tent, listening to the rain run down the sides and playing cards. It isn't fun if your tent leaks or isn't right for you though. Then it's a miserable, wait-for-it-to-stop-so-you-can-go-home sort of thing. Don't like sleeping on the ground? Get a cozy cot. Don't like going without conveniences? Bring what you need to feel comfortable, though if you try, you may enjoy making due without. Bring enough food, enough blankets, enough whatever you're going to need, and you'll feel more relaxed and comfortable, and be able to enjoy yourself better.
Check the weather bulletin. If there's going to be storms and lightning, don't go. Unless you like the weather to be fierce, don't go camping in it. This applies to families especially. There's nothing worse than cranky, wet, and tired kids, complaining about how bored they are because they're stuck in a tent. Camping is great for kids, when they can get outside and have fun, but let's face it, being stuck inside a tent with mom and dad, waiting for the rain the stop isn't going to be a great memory. Also, if it's going to snow, you'll need to know whether your tent can handle the extra weight without collapsing (if it's an average tent, probably not), and make sure to have enough blankets and supplies.
Go camping with your friends. Friends make everything better. Have long conversations over the campfire, share the work, play cards, having friends along make the trip far more enjoyable. Just remember, don't go to quiet campground if you plan on making a lot of noise and partying. Most people go camping for peace and quiet, not to try to sleep through a drunken gathering.
Bring things to do. You won't be hiking and fishing the entire trip. Bring cards, musical instruments, or board games on the camping trip with you. A Frisbee or ball is great too. Something to do is always good.
You can have fun on your camping trip. You just have to want to have fun and prepare for it :-)
Types of Camping
Camping in itself if a fairly simple concept. Going out to spend the night in nature and enjoy our roots. The form it can take varies a lot from camper to camper.
There are many different types of camping. What sort you do depends upon your skill levels and where you want to camp, as well as whether you'll be bringing your kids or elderly family members.
Tent camping is camping in a tent. This is the usual sort of camping and can happen in a campground or the wilderness. Campers get to the location and set up their tent for their stay. Campers may get there by car, canoe, or hiking, and it is also often considered a form of backpacking or car camping.
Backpacking is hauling in everything you need to camp. It can vary from hiking in a few miles to camp off the beaten track to hiking for months on famous trails. Backpacking can be extremely difficult and isn't for everyone.
Car camping can be camping in the car, but usually means camping at a site accessible to vehicles, so it's easy to bring along everything you need to camp. This is the most family-friendly type of camping since it's not as difficult and in an emergency your vehicle is nearby.
RV or trailer camping is staying in a rolling home. Usually this is nicer for people unable to get around well but still wanting some access to the outdoors. It's also nice when the weather is bad since there's a bit more space than a tent.
Glam camping is a newer type of camping. It features staying in a tent that's had a glamorous makeover and been filled with all sorts of little luxuries. Eating chocolate-dipped strawberries and champagne while watching the sun rise from your tent, cuddled in a pile of pillows and comforters.
I'm a really cold camper, and no matter the rating on my bag, I freeze all night long. And the mornings? Forget about 'em. Too cold!
Well, that was before I discovered these handy little things. Just open the package and a chemical reaction occurs, warming the little packages inside and making a tiny heater to keep your fingers and toes nice and warm. They last for hours after being engaged and I LOVE them! The arthritis in my fingers doesn't bother me hardly at all, even on the coldest mornings, when I stick one of these in each of my gloves, and a couple scattered in my sleeping bag heat it up a little before I even crawl inside. They are single use only, but they're so great I get several to take with me on trips since everyone who sees mine wants to try them out too.
Just be cautious about using the warmers. They can get hot enough to burn your skin if the package is pressed against your bare skin for too long. Use caution or don't use on people with poor circulation or unsupervised on children. Since I have sensitive skin I usually place them on the outside of my socks and move one from one glove to other as my hands warm up. They work great! Did I happen to mention that I like these? :D
Your Home Away From Home
Staking Your Tent
Tents are giant sails when the wind catches them, so they need to be staked down to prevent them flying off. If it is breezy out when setting up, putting some of your camping items inside to weight the tent down until it is properly staked in place.
Don't use the stakes that come with your tent. They are usually worthless and weak pieces of metal that will bend being put into the ground and then pull right out. Buy a couple packets of tent stakes. Even cheaper ones are fine for most people. I've camped in some pretty windy places and usually just use those tent stakes that look like giant nails with plastic hooks at the top.
Another type of stake I've used is pieces of rebar a couple of feet long, bent into a candycane shape. These stakes hold down really well and the bent top makes them much easier to pull up when it's time to leave.
Keeping a couple of spiral dog stakes on handy can be a good idea if you plan on camping where it will be very windy or the soil is exceptionally loose. They're very difficult to pull out of the ground unless you unscrew them, so they keep your tent in place if the other tent stakes pull out.
Most tents have little loops at the bottoms of the poles so you can attach it to tent stakes. After the tent is set up, hammer in a stake for each of these loops. Hammer them at a slight angle to the bottoms point toward the tent without going into the fabric, while the tops point away. This slight angle will help keep them from pulling loose.
There are as many types of tents as there are types of campers. Family tents are usually taller tents made to fit lots of people. Dome tents are tents shaped like domes that hold up better in the wind. Backpacking tents are lightweight and small to make them easier to carry on the trail. Some things stay consistent though.
Tents pretty much never actually fit the number of people they say they will. The floor space may make it possible to fit in four people, but no one would really want to sleep on top of each other like that, nor would there be room for backpacks or clothing bags. Anything touching tent walls allows water to bead up through the fabric, so in damp weather trying to fit too much in one tent will make for a leaky night.
The fabric of tents is made in such a way that water will roll off the surface unless there is something pressing against the inside. This fabric is breathable on purpose since a tent that is too waterproof will become full of condensation from your breath during the night. Never spray waterproofer all over your tent, you'll end up wet every morning from condensation dripping on you.
Some tents have vents built in to allow more ventilation. They are built in such a way that your moisture-laden breath can get out but water can't get in.
The one place you should waterproof your tent is along the seams. Seam sealer is designed to make the seams of your tent waterproof and prevent water from squeezing in where there is sewing. Most tents do not come with their seams already sealed, so it's important to set up your tent at home and treat it before going camping.
Hammock tents are a combination tent-hammock. They are small and hang between a couple of trees, keeping you off the ground and comfy. Their tight space makes them lightweight, but being off the ground allows wind to chill you on every side and they can be uncomfortable if you ever need to spend a lot of time inside.
Setting Up a Dome Tent
This isn't a bad video about setting up a dome tent. He mentions several things that are important to do. The only thing I really disagree with are the tent stakes. The type of stakes shown in the video are the ones that come with most tents. They're the worst stakes in the world. Put out a couple of bucks and pick up some good tent stakes that will actually hold your tent down and won't bend as soon as you try to get them into the ground.
Also, make sure you do a test run with your tent at home before your camping trip. You don't know what the conditions will be like out at the campground and you want to make sure you know how to set up your tent already. It will make your life much easier if you have to set up the tent in the wind, the rain, or in the dark, or even if they forgot to give you a piece of the tent. I've seen lots of people get out to the campground and realize the only thing in their box was a rainfly and some stakes. You need to set up your tent to prepare it for use anyway. Check out preparing your tent for use if you're not sure how to do this.
Preparing a Tent For Use
If you just got a tent, or have a used one that hasn't been cared for in a while, you need to prepare it properly so it won't leak and will last longer. Remember, tents are often the most expensive item a camper will need for camping, don't ruin yours by treating it badly. Tents last many years when treated properly.
First, set up your tent. This will allow you to make sure you know how to do so, which may save ripping your tent when you go set it up at the campsite and it happens to be raining or dark, or my favorite, 20 mph winds! Setting up an unfamiliar tent is difficult enough, don't make your first time be harder than it needs to be. Also, if the tent is missing any pieces, now is the time to find out. Not every tent that leaves the factory actually has all its parts.
Check the tent over. Make sure there are no rips or tears or unsewn seams. This is especially important if you've used the tent for a while or picked it up used. Repair any problems you notice with a tent repair kit. Sewn up or patch any holes, duct tape works great on the floor if you have a bathtub floor with a rip though it does have a tendency to peel up if the area is not clean well first. Fix zippers if broken and just generally make sure the tent is in tiptop shape. You'll also want to make sure the tent has a rainfly, a covering that goes over the top and keeps out rain, and a ground cloth, tarp, or footprint to go underneath. Some tents come with these, others don't, so you need to make sure you have them or else pick them up before you go on your trip.
After checking that the tent is in good shape and ready to be used, you'll want to make sure it's clean. Obviously if your tent is brand new, you won't need to do this, but older tents can get really dirty, really quickly. If you have the instructions that came with your tent still, check to see how they recommend cleaning it first in order to avoid damaging the fabric. Many common cleaners will cause the tent fabric to sort of melt, so you want to avoid anything with acetone in it and anything that is harsh. A soft cloth and water is usually all you need anyway.
When the tent is set up, clean and dry you'll want to start waterproofing the tent. That's right, most tents don't come already waterproofed, and you wondered why they often leaked ;-) You do not want to use any kind of waterproofing spray or sealer on the tent! Do NOT use it, it will ruin your tent forever. You don't want your tent completely waterproofed, the fabric is designed to breathe and release condensation. If it can't do that the vapor from your breath will condense at the top of the tent and then rain on you inside the tent. I repeat, do not waterproof your entire tent! To prevent water leakage you need to:
Use Seam Seal on the seams according to the package. Seam Seal, well, seals the seams. The tiny holes where the thread goes through the tent fabric will let in water. Seam Seal plugs those holes with sort of a wax that prevents the water from seeping in. You'll need to let your tent dry thoroughly after using the Seam Seal, else it will stick to itself and get all over your tent.
Coat your bathtub floor with a waterproof sealer. Make sure that is safe for plastics before using it. A bathtub floor is the part of the tent that is made of a more plastic-like material. It is thicker than the tent walls and is usually a dark gray color, though it varies. This is the part that prevents your tent from allowing in water if you end up sitting in a puddle. It is safe, and desirable even, to waterproof the floor of the tent, that area should not allow water to transfer through. Follow the directions on the spray sealer and allow to thoroughly dry.
You may also want to treat your tent's zippers to make them glide easier. If you've ever tried dealing with a zipper on a tent, you'll know they're very loud and often stick and can even tear off. Making them glide easier saves wear and tear on your tent as well as making it easier to use. Though there are lots of items on the market to smooth the way of your zippers, a cheap and easy thing to use is a bar of soap. It's a bit messy, pieces crumble off, but it's practically free and easy to use. Open the zipper and rub the bar of soap all along both sides. Then run the zipper back and forth to rub the soap in more. It should really lubricate it.
Make sure the tent is dry, aired out, and that you really know how to set it up, then pack it away in your camping gear. It may sound odd, but the best way to do this is to put the poles in the bag the tent will go in (I actually almost always replace these with better bags, those tent bags are usually junk, and I like to keep the poles separate when possible. Long duffel bags work great) then start shoving in the tent. That's right, don't fold it, just shove the tent into the tent bag. One of the biggest causes of wear on a tent is the creases a tent gets from being folded repeatedly in the same ways, so wadding the tent and pushing it into the tent bag is preferable. Just be careful not to get it caught on the poles, you don't want to rip the tent. This may leave your tent looking quite wrinkled when you set it up next, but it will be much better for it and the wrinkles will fall out quickly.
I recommend doing preventive maintenance regularly on the tent. About every 10 camping trips or so, depending on how hard the use was. My 9-day Utah trip required quite the clean-up since we went through sand, storms, rain, and harsh wind. It even pulled out a grommet which needed to be replaced. But it's far better to prep your tent at home, than find out it leaks in the middle of a thunderstorm or is missing pieces.
Campground by the Lake
Keep Your Tent Space Organized
Keeping your tent organized and picked up is a must. There isn't a lot of space in there, so space is at a premium and anything left out can be easily tripped over.
Some people just leave all their clothes in their clothing bags. Others choose to use storage bins.
I've seen some tents nicely organized with plastic drawer sets. And of course there are lots of tent organizers on the market.
Your Sleep System
---Your Sleep System---
Your Sleep System
Preparing a Sleep System
Sleep system - With the proper equipment, I sleep better at camp than I ever do at home
First you need a sleeping bag. Mummy, tapered, or traditional. Woman, man, or kid's bag. A summer, winter, or fall bag. Line it with a cozy fleece or soft wool liner for some extra warmth and coziness, or use the liner by itself when it's too warm for your sleeping bag. Set it all on a sleeping pad for a comfortable layer between you and the ground.
The Camping Kitchen
Eating Breakfast at Camp - Camping near the lake on a paleontology field trip
In the picture above notice the wash basins set up on the side (circled in red). It's super easy to wash dishes at camp when you have something like these set up since one of the biggest pains while camping is trying to do dishes without a sink or running water. Somehow it feels worse that we have to do dishes at all while on vacation. Well, there are some tricks to make washing those dirty dishes a bit easier. Preparing ahead of time is the key. You know you'll be doing dishes, plan on it and plan it out. Prepare before you go so you have what you need.
Camp Kitchen Stuff
Cooking in the outdoors isn't really that difficult, if you have the right equipment
Sitting Around the Campfire
Certain foods are better when camping than others, here's some info on a few foods that work great.
Sitting around a campfire cooking s'mores is one of the best things about camping :)
Ultra Light Backpacking Setup Part 1
This guy has his backpacking gear down to a science. He's obviously very experienced, I wouldn't recommend this for first timers. Camp a while before trying to go ultra-light so you'll know what is important for you.
Do you like camping too? What camping tips do you have for other readers?
© 2009 Alisha Vargas