Camping with Suzi

Join me as we discover camping in our national forests.


Posts Tagged ‘camping tips’

The Great Pumpkin to the rescue

Fred is so looking forward to re-connecting with his former WKU Frat brothers latter this week.  What if Fred invites the “guys” over?  The menu isn’t the problem but I need something for a table decoration if they come over for a visit.   What to do?  What to do?  Hey, it’s Halloween and what is more festive then a Jack-O-Lantern?

Toilet paper pumpkinOne of the first things you learn when you begin the full-time RV lifestyle is to “Make Do.”  A traditional “live” pumpkin wouldn’t be practical so I looked around and found a fresh roll of toilet paper – perfect!  I bought some orange and black felt and starting playing with it.  I was looking for orange tissue wrapping paper but think what I got looks prefect good.  I just wrapped the tp roll with the fabric and cut out the face’s features.  The features just natural stick and the stem is a crunched up paper roll.  Now I have something for the table


Getting here was another “one of those days” – We thought we had ANOTHER flat tire but turns out the valve cover wasn’t inserted correctly after the new brake shoes were installed.  Hey, that was a good thing.  Than, during our drive to Bowling Green, KY from London, KY the winds picked up enough we followed the lead of some truckers and pulled into a truck stop to wait out the worse of the wind.  Soon, a tornado warning was issued and there we sat in our “little” motorhome being buffeted about with the dogs on their leash and laptops by the door at the ready if we have to make a dash for it.   The sky was incredible and frightening.  Eventually the warning was canceled and the rain started.  It came down so hard it was bouncing  back up!!  Our projected three hour drive turned into six hours but after seeing the damage between I-65 (at the Corvette Museum) and Beech Bend RV Park in Bowling Green I am very happy we spent that time safe in the truck stop.

Raccoon Branch cg has WIFI

Raccoon Branch cg in Fall colorsAfter almost 2,400 Forest Service campgrounds, we have just discovered the FIRST with wifi and did anyone tell us before we got there?????   Noooooo! But I’m telling you – Raccoon Branch campground in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area of the Jefferson National Forest has not only a dump station, fantastic Fall color, warm showers, some nice hiking and spacious campsites, it also has wifi at the sites with electric and water hookups.

For those of us who travel a good bit and depend on the Internet for maintaining that lifestyle, Raccoon Branch campground is a wonderful discovery.

Useful Knowledge from the Laundromat

I have a love/hate relationship with laundromats.  I hate spending all those quarters only to have the clothes come out half clean from the washers or still damp, wrinkled, or, worse from one of the cavernous driers.  But I do enjoy learning about the community from the locals sharing my ordeal.  And I always find something interesting in the reading material folks have left behind.

One magazine, a June 2007 issue of  All You, was loaded with good stuff.  One section I found especially useful was the Tip Strip.  Several “tips” I already knew and used (you probably do too but I’m including just in case) but others were new.   All these tips were good for when camping or at home.  I tried the tips out and found they work!

–    Apply sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 everyday. FYI: There is no such thing as “water-proof” sunscreen so apply to all exposed skin and reapply every two hours or after emerging from water.
–    Wear a hat.  Whether a baby or grandpa and have thin hair apply sunscreen to scalp.  The scalp is more sensitive and prone to sunburn faster than skin on arms and legs.
–    Stay indoors or out of direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm.  This is when the sun’s rays, no matter the cloud cover, are strongest and the danger from UV light greatest.
–    Treat a sunburn with emollients (moisturizers) containing vitamin C, vitamin E, and copper peptides to minimize the sun’s damage.
–    Cool down the burn by applying cool compresses of water or chilled green tea.  The antioxidants in green tea are said to protect the skin while helping it to repair itself.

–    Cover up – Spray bug repellent all over arms and legs when outside, especially at night, even if you are wearing long sleeve shirt and pants.  And apply repellent every two to 4 hours.
–    Bees and wasps are drawn to bright colors so don’t wear them.  Stick with white or khaki.
–    Don’t smell like a flower.  Sweet-smelling perfumes will attract bees and wasps.
–    Too remove a bee’s stinger scrape it out with the side of a straight-end object, like a credit card.  DO NOT squeeze or pull the stringer out as this will release more venom and could increase the pain and itching.
–    Relieve the itch with a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water applied to the affected area.   A cream containing pramoxine will also help relieve the itching.
–    To stop the swelling from a bite or sting try using a 0.5 to 1.0 percent hydrocortisone cream to inflammation.  (I have found a product called “After Bite” works well for me on mosquito bites.)
–    Some people may have a severe reaction to insect venom.  If you experience facial swelling, difficulty breathing, dizziness, hives or nausea, seek medical assistance immediately!

–    Perspiration can attract bugs, particularly if antiperspirant is loaded with perfume.  Switch to unscented antiperspirant that lists aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex Gly among it ingredients.  It is effective and minimally attractive to bugs
–    Absorbent powders, such as talcum powder or cornstarch, help soak up sweat.  Apply to areas where skin touches skin, like armpits and behind knees.  (I prefer cornstarch since it isn’t perfumed and I already have a box in the kitchen.)
–    Drink lots of water.  It will help lower your body temperature so you will sweat less.
–    Certain medications can prevent the release of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that kicks sweat glands into overdrive.  Drugs that might caused this problem frequently have warning about dry mouth, blurred vision, and heart palpitations side effects.  If you aren’t perspiring your body can’t cool down and you could be headed for trouble.  Contact your doctor for how to counteract your medication.

There was more interesting “stuff” in the “All You” magazine including recipes and activities but the “Tip Strip” was my favorite section.

Good night’s sleep means good time camping

Speaking as someone who has been camping for a long while, a good night’s sleep is essential to enjoying any camping adventure.  From buzzing bugs to an inadequate sleeping bag, there are a number of factors that can keep a camper from a good night’s sleep.  So what is a novice camper to do?  Here are some thoughts that should help

First, if this is your first camping adventure, and you don’t want to buy a sleeping bag until you have decided if camping is something you might do again, consider borrowing or renting a sleeping bag.  You might want to use an old sheet and make a “lining” for your borrowed bag but that’s up to you and your sewing skills.

An alternative to a borrowed or rented bag is a bedroll.  I find a bedroll well-suited to summer tent camping when temperatures are relatively warm throughout the night (tip: If you find nights nippy, don’t strip down to the buff. Often just one extra layer is all you’ll need to be toasty warm.) and my tent offers good protection from inclement weather.  Plus a bedroll is easy to make from the stuff you already have.

Here’s how: Lay a blanket flat on the floor and spread a similar size sheet on top of the blanket.  If twin size blanket is used, fold in half or in thirds if double size is used.  Roll it up from short end and use a string or rubberband to hold it together.  When you get to camp, unroll and fold one end under so the bed roll is as long as you are tall.  If you are hiking into a campsite, roll your bedding the long way, fold in half, and use a string or rubberband to tie the ends together so you have a donut that can be carried by slipping over your head and one arm.

When you feel camping is something you will be doing again and are ready to invest in a sleeping bag, check out this article from REI.  Don’t forget to use the experience and knowledge of your local outfitter store’s sales staff.

Have you heard the story about the Princess and the Pea?  You’ll have a better understanding of the Princess’s discomfort after sleeping on the ground.  If the campground doesn’t have the tent pad, be sure give the ground under your tent a thorough inspection for little rocks and large pebbles and remove each and every one.  And, trust me, you’ll find more while sleeping.

From air mattress to sleeping mats, there are a number of things you can use to minimize those lumps.  Personally, I would get off the ground all together and go for a cot but it is a sizeable invest and I know I’ll be camping again.  If you aren’t sure about the whole idea, ask your sleeping bag source about borrowing something to lay under their bag.  You could also go with what you have on hand: an extra blanket, pine needles or a couple of beach towels, anything that  offers some padding.

One might think the forest at night is really quiet but it can be anything but silent.  Not noisy like boom boxes and train whistles, although these sounds are possible, but noisy with the sounds of nature.  You won’t believe how loud an amorous frog can get!  Ear plugs are good if you are sensitive to unfamiliar sounds.  Or camp near a stream for the “white noise” of flowing water.

Another surprise for the novice camper is just how dark the night is in the forest.  Some find the darkness terrifying.  A good quality flashlight, kept close, is reassuring and will help reduce the stubbed toes on the way to the bathroom.

Even experienced campers can be surprised by the swing in temperatures between day time and night.  (A thirty-degree shift isn’t uncommon in the mountains west of the Mississippi River.)  Wearing a socking cap and socks are suggested to help ward off the cold.  Another idea is to eat a little snack before climbing into your bedroll to generate some additional body heat.

One last word – mosquitos.  They don’t seem to care if it is day or night, mosquitos are always hungry.  You can apply a mosquito repellant just before you climb into bed or sleep well down and under the covers.  I’ve been know to sleep with a bandana draped over my head.  Sorry, but I haven’t found anything more effective then these strategies.

Next week – a kitchen primer for the novice camper.

More alternative uses for everyday things

-    A wire coat hanger is good for emergencies like when a car door is lock and the keys are still in the ignition or to snag something is just out of reach.
–    Make a giant bubble wand by untwisting a hanger and bend the wire hanger into a big circle (Use one part dish detergent and one part water to make your own bubble solution.).
–    Cut an empty, clean bleach bottle (or any bottle with a handle) diagonally across the middle and use the half with the handle as a beach toy or scope.
–    Put a handful of pebbles in any clean plastic bottle and you have a musical instrument ready for a campfire concerts.
–    Large leaf or trash bags can be a drop cloth, rain poncho, emergency blanket, or a host of those useful things.
–    Mix one cup white vinegar with 3 cups of water in a spray bottle and you have a non-toxic, very effective disinfectant.
–    Cut, on the diagonal, the corners off an envelop and use as a bookmark.  Just slip the book’s page into the cut side of the corner.  If you cut the corner as a large triangle, you’ll be able to write notes on it.
–    Use half an onion to clean a hot grill.  Rub the grill with the cut side of an onion to remove fat and bits of food that are stuck on.
–    Apply a little yogurt on skin that feels tired or dried out from too much sun or wind.  Let yogurt dry and rinse away with clean cool water.

Novice campers – Buying a tent

Last year, everyone was spouting doom and gloom for camping in our national forests. From the anecdotal information I have, la majority of  national forest campgrounds saw more campers, more families, and more novice campers in 2009.  As summer moves into full swing, it would seem this trend is continuing for 2010.

While having more people discover the joys camping and the wonders of national forests is a good thing.  But camping can be scary.  Especially to novice campers.  If you have never build a campfire, slept under the stars, or spent time in the woods, there is a lot to learn.

The blogs I’ll be posting for June’s Fridays will focus on helping the novice camper  minimize worry-factor and, hopefully, provide a “warm-fuzzy” feeling when the novice camper heading for a campground and their camping adventure.  Camping isn’t hard but it can be a challenge for the most experienced camper.  Four things critical to a “successful” camping adventures are shelter, sleep, food, and determining the best style of camping (dispersed camping vs developed campground) for the camper.

Let’s start with the general topic of shelter.  There are several options for shelter.  You can use your vehicle if the back is big enough or you could rent a cabin or try something in between. Many novice campers start with a car and tent so that’s what this blog is focused on.  (Novice campers in recreational vehicles is a series for later.)

The most challenging thing about car camping is the car’s lack of room.  Don’t try to take everything!  For a weekend, you can make do with a change of clothes, fire building stuff, food (more about that in a couple of weeks), a tent, some personal hygiene stuff, and a sense of adventure.  And if there is more than one of you going, you might have to consider limiting the hygiene stuff to just a toothbrush and a bar of hotel soap.

If you are totally new and not at all sure camping is going to be your thing don’t waste your money on a new tent.  Borrow or rent one.  (Check a local outfitter store such as REI about renting all the camping equipment you need.)

However, if you a fairly sure camping is something you will want to do again, than, by all means, buy a tent.  There are lots of choices and the internet has reviews for just about every manufacturer and model.  A good place to start your research is with Consumer Reports {}.

Another option is visiting that local outfitter store and pick the salesperson’s brain.  Yes, places like Walmart and Target will have tents and the prices are attractive but the salespeople won’t have the practical knowledge of the equipment you need.  While the tents offered in non-camping focused business maybe cheaper, a serious consideration should be given to durability.  Think of it this way: If you buy a tent for $200 and use for 20 weekend camping trip, the cost is $10 per trip.  And if you buy a tent for $25 and it doesn’t make it through a weekend of camping in your backyard, that tent costs is $25 per trip.  Which seems the most cost effective to you? In other words, “Don’t go cheap!” if you want a tent to last longer then one trip.

Other tips are:
– Select a size that will offer all the occupants comfort.  Tents are rated 2-person, 4-person and so and each “person” is crammed into that tent and no consideration is given to anything else you might want to store in the shelter of a tent.  When we go camping, the “kids” (a couple of snuggle-bug dogs) share the tent with us so a 4-person tent was our best option..
– A consideration of size should include the roof line.  Dome tents are great but not if you are leaning over all the time.
– Another rating used for tents is 3 or 4 season.  Don’t worry about seasons.  As long as the tent keeps you dry, investing in a quality sleeping bag is a better use of your money.
– Practice setting up your tent in the backyard or livingroom. As with most things, a little practice goes a long way to insure success.
– When you get your tent invest in “seam sealer”.  While you have your tent set up in the back yard, apply the “seam sealer” to insure you will have some place dry if it should rain.
– A drop clothe or quality tarp is good under the tent but a lightweight inexpensive tarp or drop clothe inside your tent will make clean up so much easier.
– Check the ventilation the tent offers.  And how effective does the “rain flap” appear to be?
Campingblogger’s “Anatomy of a bad tent” points out things you’ll want to avoid in your tent, such as a lack of ventilation and a too short “rain flap”.

Back in the day, we would dig a trench around the tent.  Allegedly, it was to keep the tent dry.  (Personally, I think it was just a ploy to keep the children busy.)  This practice is now frowned upon and thanks to the evolved construction of many tents today, unnecessary.  However, staking your tent is a very good practice, especially when the wind picks up in storm.  Eureka Tents describe an excellent method to use when staking your tent for high winds and storms.

Next week – a good night’s sleep.

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