In the first post on this series on camping, we talked about the gear you’ll need to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. The next post covered places to go, including campgrounds, national forests, and backpacking. This article will talk about great things you can do while camping.
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People are naturally attracted to water, so many of the campsites will be located near bodies of water. Often you will be able to walk just a few yards from your campsite and throw a line in the lake. Many campsites are next to or very near lakes, rivers, creeks, and other water sources. If you know this to be true, be sure to bring a tackle box and pole along and carve out some time to spend on the bank. Buy some worms on the way into the site (or onsite if you know there are stores nearby) since basically any fish will bite on a worm and they are a lot easier to keep than minnows or other live bait. A fly rod and flies is also a great option for many rivers and lakes.
To protect your poles on the way, consider getting an Allnice Durable Canvas Fishing Rod & Reel Organizer Bag. It holds up to five poles and will help protect your delicate fishing rods as you load up the car with all of your gear. Also, don’t forget to bring along the tools you need to cut line, remove hooks (pliers), and so on. One option is the Mossy Oak 4pc Fishing Tool Kit.
You can bring a boat along if you know you’ll be on a big lake, but this adds to the number of things you’ll need to pack and will add stress to the trip. A good option if you just have to get out on the water is to rent a boat for the day. Many marinas will have pontoon boats for rent. Some will have small fishing boats and ski boats as well. Be sure to book a few weeks in advance as rentals sell out quickly during the summer.
Another option is to bring kayaks or canoes, or to bring an inflatable boat and a couple of oars. An inflatable boat will take up a lot less space, which becomes really important when you’re trying to fit everything into the car for a camping trip. Kayaks are another option, but this may require a roof rack or a trailer for transport. Again, its all about how much you want to bring. And be sure you remember to bring the lifejackets and paddles.
If you go to any campground, you’ll likely find lots of kids riding their bikes around from morning until dark. If you have a bike rack or enough room in the back of your truck, your kids will likely get hours of enjoyment if you bring their bikes. Be sure that you remember to pack their helmets and remind them to be careful of cars. Most drivers will be extremely careful in campgrounds (the speed limits are typically 5 mph), but there may be the odd person travelling faster who is not as watchful as he should be.
You may also want to think about bringing your bikes. It’s nice to leave the car parked for the weekend and just commute around by bike. Many parks also have paved bike paths and/or mountain biking trails. Don’t forget to bring water bottles if you’re going to be riding any sort of distance. Dehydration is not a fun thing to experience.
There are a lot of great yard games that you can play in the campground or in a nearby field. Some traditional ones are horseshoes, bocce ball, and cornhole. These games can all be played within a fairly small area like a campsite.
You can also just throw around a frisbee or put together a game of soccer or touch football. Some campgrounds may have disc golf courses, or volleyball and basketball courts. Realize though that if it is the middle of summer you’ll likely be feeling hot and sticky, so sports that require a lot of exertion may not be as appealing as throwing around a few bean bags between beers in the shade of the campground trees.
Campfire cooking is another fun activity. Sure, you need to eat, and you could just pack pop tarts or head over to a local restaurant to get a meal, but cooking over the campfire can be fun all by itself. Pie irons are a fun way to make hot sandwiches and hot pocket meals. Dutch oven cooking is an art all of its own and fun both for the challenge and the great meals you can make. Lodge makes some of the best products when it comes to anything built from cast iron like dutch ovens. Foil packet cooking over the campfire is another great way to make meals. Finally, reflector ovens are surprisingly good and can be used to bake biscuits, cinnamon rolls, or virtually anything else you may want to bake.
There are also a variety of camping stoves that you can use in the campground. Many of these, such as the Coleman Gas Camping Stove | Classic Propane Stove, 2 Burner, use small propane bottles for fuel. There are also stoves that use liquid fuel, such as the Coleman Guide Series Powerhouse Dual-Fuel Camping Stove, 2-Burner. This stove can use either Coleman liquid fuel or unleaded gasoline. Unleaded gasoline is cheaper, but using the Coleman liquid fuel will usually make the stove last longer before cleaning of the fuel system is needed. You can buy this fuel in the big box stores.
One of the secrets to having fun with camping cooking is to do a lot of the meal prep at home. You’ll want to cut up vegetables, make mixes for baking, make up foil packet meals, and do other things before you go so that all you need to do is dump things into pots and cook when you get to the campground. This also minimizes the amount of dishes you’ll need to clean up when you’re camping. You can also choose simple meals like hot dogs and beans. If you do have a dutch oven, a great meal in the morning is the mountain man breakfast, for which there are a variety of recipes, but they all generally involve cooking bacon, potatoes, eggs, and cheese together. You can find this and a lot of other great recipes in 101 Things® to Do with a Dutch Oven.
One of the great things about camping is the ability to unplug and enjoy simpler things. Unfortunately, many campgrounds now offer wifi, so you can basically keep doing all of the things you do at home right from your tent or hammock. Even if the campground itself doesn’t offer wifi, there are so many cell towers around today that you can get cell reception at most campsites. This means that you probably will have the ability to check FaceBook, text friends, post to InstaGram, or write your blog while you’re sitting around the fire.
Let me suggest that you don’t. Maybe turn your phone to airplane mode (or even, gasp, turn it off) and put it away for the majority of your trip. You can pick a time during the day to check for messages if you wish, but you’ll find that it is a lot more relaxing and that you’ll find other camp activities far more interesting if you don’t have internet access. Many camp activities were invested at a time when there was nothing else to do A game of horse shoes is just not going to compete with surfing through Twitter or the latest game you’ve downloaded. But those will be there for you when you get home.
But you’ll find that when you play some of these older games and do some of these activities that have been around for a hundred years or more, really allowing yourself to get into them, that you’ll really enjoy the chance to connect with a simpler life. You’ll talk to friends and family. Laugh when you somehow get a ringer on a wild throw. You’ll find that even sitting in the woods, really seeing what is around you rather than ignoring everything while you stare at your device can be really fascinating. But this will only happen if you put away the distraction and allow yourself to just be there, at the campsite, and not connecting with work or your normal circle as you do every other day.
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