Camping with Suzi

Join me as we discover camping in our national forests.


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Getting Organized – Tamping Wires

Fred says I am OCD about being neat.  Whatever – I like everything to have a place.  This seems even more important in an recreational vehicle (RV) where space is so limited.

I will admit one thing that bugged me for years was wires of electric appliances getting all tangled.  One wire was always wrapped around something else making removing one appliance from the others a challenge.  Than one day, while doing laundry at a public laundromat, the solution was suggested by a fellow RVer.  All you really need is an empty toilet paper tube.  (FYI:  I used an empty paper towel tub cut to size for the following.)  Here is how to solve the problem of a rat’s nest of appliance wires:

Untamed wires

My hair curling iron with untamed wire.

paper tubes

Add a paper tube,

masking tape on ends

Re-enforce ends with some masking tape (optional), and

wire tames

You have neatly tamed wires.

Young Families Camping Medicine Kit

The majority of First Aide Kits I have seen in the stores focused on adult travelers. If you have young ones, say Elementary School age and younger, here’s my suggestions for a young family’s camping/traveling medicine kit:

1. Any medication(s) your child needs such as a EpiPen or antihistamine.
2. A fever reducer/pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for children (check with family doctor for their recommendation).
3. Antibacterial cream to prevent minor ouchies from becoming infected. I like Neosporin but take what works for you.
4. Thermometer and hope you never need to use it.
5. Oral rehydration solution in powder form for easy packing.
6. Bandages of various sizes and shapes.
7. Hand sanitizer, preferably non-alcohol.
8. Sunblock – really important to use whether bright sunny or cloudy weather.
9. Insect repellent with a DEET concentration of 30%.
10. A pair of good tweezers to remove splinters or ticks.

Optional: Saline solution and nasal aspirator are suggested if you have a baby that tends to develop a stuffy nose.
A fine spray plant mister to help cool down over-heated child.
Post bug bite treatment such as AfterBite. I would moisten the bite with a little spit and sprinkle on table salt on my children’s bug bites (like what my mother did) but over the counter products really are more effective.

Tips for Toddler’s bedtime when camping

The first time you camp with a toddler make it a practice run. Remember, most of camping, but especially sleeping outside in a tent, under the stars, away from the familiar, is a new and, for some, scary thing. Pick a place close to home, such as a nearby campground or, perhaps, your backyard. And be prepared to pack-it-up and head “home”. Like I said, it can be really scary for some children.

Another thing that can be difficult for youngsters to deal with is sleeping in adult-size sleeping bag. Two options are: use a rope or heavy-duty rubberband to shortening an adult’s sleeping bag to fit the child; and, make a bedroll for the child using a sheet and blanket folded in thirds with the bottom folded up to their size.  An additional tool to help the child feel more secure in this new place is to have the child sleep between the adults.

The last, and very important, bedtime tool in a parent’s toolbox when camping with a toddler, or any age child, is to stick with the established bedtime routine. If cuddling while reading a book, saying prayers together, or snuggling with a favorite blanket is part of the routine, not doing it when camping can make children worry about this new, unfamiliar environment.

One of the first lessons I learned camping with young ones was a good night’s sleep, for both adults and children, makes the next day so much better.

Camping with a child of any age may not be as easy as camping by yourself but it is so totally worth the effort. Trust me on this one.

Who know eating in the rain could be so much fun!?!?!

Who know eating in the rain could be so much fun!?!?!

Summer is here – sunburns not far behind

Okay, it is official. Summer is here.  Can sunburns be far behind? The application of a sun blocking skin product is critical: for your comfort and health. You already know about selecting the “right” sun block with the appropriated SPF and it is recommended one applies about a shot glass (about one ounce) of lotion but here are some areas people tend forget to apply their sun blocking skin care product: top of ears and feet; back of neckhands; and lips.  Even if you wear a hat, please apply sun block to these often overlooked areas.  

Two other tips:   Water, especially salt water, can amplify the skin damaging effects of the sun, and, white and little colored clothing provides little or no protection from the sun’s rays.


Weber grille – my alternative to a campfire

The weather in my neck of the woods calls for the big old Weber kettle-style bar-b-que back in to service. It’s almost like camping but without leaving home. I can stare into those glowing coals and recall so many camping trips and adventures. Won’t be long now and I will be adding to my memories.

One memory closely tied to a campfire’s glowing coals are the first meal I made in the Great Out-of-Doors. The first challenge was getting that darn fire going.

Once you have your campfire going and the coals are grey and ashy, you might be wondering  about just what temperature you are working with. Using either an open campfire or kettle-style bar-b-que, there are two ways to approximate the temperature.

The first is to hold your hand or the inside of your wrist close to the cooking surface and counting one-thousand-one, two-thousand-two, and on until the heat becomes unbearable and you can estimate the temperature of your fire. Use this table to help:

Count = Estimated temperature
6 to 8 = 250 to 300 degrees F
4 to 5 = 350 to 400 degrees F
2 to 3 = up to 450 degrees F

The second way is to sprinkle a little all-purpose flour in a cold skillet and then put it on the heat. Let it sit for five minutes before removing from your fire. If there has been no change in color, the cooking temperature is less than 250 degrees. Pale tan indicates 300 degree, golden brown about 350 and dark brown about 400 degrees.

I have found, as a general rule of thumb, in my big old Weber kettle-style bar-b-que two charcoal briquettes produce 20 degrees of heat. So, for a “moderate,” or 350 degree, temperature I’ll start with 18 charcoal briquettes and add more when necessary.  Check Weber’s website for more recipe but here’s a link to my new favorite Beer Can Chicken.  Hickory chips aren’t critical but sure are good.

Beer can chicken – my latest favorite way to prepare chicken on my Weber

Time saving tips for potatoes

One of the first things a cook learns when camping, when camp is a mile or more high, is it takes longer for things to cook. Fred is a meat-and-potato kind-ah guy and for a long time I just could not get the two done at the same time until I learned these tricks:

1. Peel your potato,


Cut in half,


Than cut the potato in quarters the long way,



than across in thin (about 1/4-inch) slices.



Toss in your pot and bring to a boil on campfire or campstove.  The potato cooks in less than half the time. Leftover potatoes are ready for a breakfast.

2. Use pre-cooked or frozen potatoes.

3. Instant mash potatoes must have been invented by a camper. Lightweight and quick, requiring less water and minimal cooking time, they are my favorite and most trusted go-to potato product.

Busy Backseat Mapping Game


Avoid the “Are we there yet?” from the backseat by providing each child with their own map each morning at breakfast. (I would provide a map of our “before lunch” route to one child and an “after lunch” map to the other one.) You can print such a map from Google maps on the internet or from a mapping software you might have on your computer or use a road atlas map.

Briefly talk about the route, giving the child some idea of what might be waiting up ahead, such as a town with a funny name or a river with a history. You might want to highlight the planned route, may be not. Give the child a pencil and have them make notes on their map about what they see along the way. Maybe there is a 10-ft cowboy that waves at passing traffic, a herd of black cows with a white cream center (we called them Oreo cows) beside the road, or a really fun rest area they will want to remember.

Remind the child, they are the co-navigator and should let the driver know the name of any upcoming river or town and if there is some turn or change in the route coming up.

Some things to talk with the child about so they might be more aware of what they are going to see are:

Do the number signs look different for State, County, and US routes?

How does the map tells us if a route is State, County or US?

What are mile-marker?

Does every route have mile-marker?  Why would mile-markers be important?

Are the mile-marker numbers going up or down?  What do you think that tells us?



A car time activity

Whether heading to the grocery store or a favorite camping stop, the ride there can be really boring for little passengers.  There are just so many times “She’ll be around the mountain” can be sung.  A possible alternative is “The State License Plate Game.”  Basically, you print out the Game “board”, hand a copy to the little passenger along with a crayon, pencil, whatever, and have them find and scratch out as many of the state licenses as possible.  The one with the most states is the winner.   The prize could be anything from picking a lunch stop to an extra 30 minutes by the campfire.  You can also challenge the passenger to find the license plate for the state where Uncle Tom lives, or where Grandma and Grandpa live, or  where they live, or where a special place is located.

It is suggested the “State License Plate Game” be attached to a hard surface, like a clipboard or clipped to a bookcover.

Thanks to


How to find a campground

“We want to camp in June.  We are a small family with two pre-school children and a big dog.  What campground would you suggest?”

Okay, I am paraphrasing but you get the idea.  We get this question, or some variation, almost every week.  I know finding the “prefect” campground is a challenge but a key is to narrow down your selection criteria.

From the above I have a bunch of holes that need to be filled in such: Where, like state, do you want to camp?; What mode of camping will be used?;  Are they tent campers, car campers, or maybe they have some recreational vehicle (RV); Is that RV a Class A, pop-up travel trailer or something in between? and, What are your “must-have” amenities?

I suggest making a list of what your “perfect” campground “must have” as a starting point.  For Fred and I the requirements are different but we agree our top “must have” is a lack of crowds.  So with this in mind I look for a campground without a lots of whiz-bang fancy attractions.  In a private campground that means no playgrounds, swimming pool, restaurant or such.  In a state or federal campground we stay away from places with big lakes, whitewater rivers, and super outstanding fishing and head for campgrounds off a paved road and less than 50 campsites.

For me (and this is my list only), a private campground must have full hook-ups, a laundry, clean bathrooms, hot showers and not be priced beyond reason.  Fred would add wifi and enough separation between sites to put out the awning.  In a state or federal campground, I want trees, at least one trail, potable water, a bathroom, and quiet.  Fred wants a level parking apron, a good amount of sunshine, and a water spigot really close by.  (Notice Fred’s wants are difficult to determine until we get to the campground.)

So what would be on your “must have” list?  Okay, now you know what you want, which would you prefer — public or private campgrounds?  Do I need to say we tend to opt for campgrounds in national forests and grasslands?  But a lot of folks go for private campgrounds while others are happy with a Walmart parking lot campsite.

Okay that’s a good start but where does one go to locate information about campgrounds?  The problem with answering this question is there are so many places to go for campground information.  You can use one of the telephone book size directories like the one published by Trailer Life and Woodall.  And then there are numerous websites, like ours,, that list hundreds of campgrounds.  Toss in “word-of-mouth” suggestions and you can be completely overwhelmed even before you take a look at what’s available via today’s technology and apps.

We are getting away from those phonebook directories and going more with an app Fred has on his smart phone.  One reason is it includes reviews and another reason is the app will actually guide us to the campground.  However, on problem with Fred’s campground app is huge.  I would like it better if I could use some filters so my choices would be limited to campgrounds with, say, a laundry and are dog friendly.



Trick for slicing Spam

Fred loves spam.  If given a choice between Spam and breakfast sausage, I think Spam wins 9 out of 10 times.  There is always a can of Spam in the pantry.  The preferred preparation is fried crispy.

One problem I have always had with Spam is slicing it.  Getting it evenly thin enough to fry up nice a crisp was a challenge until I discovered my wire cheese slicer.  I hate taking anything in the motorhome that serves only one function.  While my wire cheese slicer has long done double duty producing even slices of butter, refrigerated cookie dough, and a variety of cheese, applying it to a brick of Spam never entered my mind until recently.  Brilliant! No fuss.  No mess.  Each slice is the same thickness for its entire length.  Why didn’t I think of this sooner.


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