Posts Tagged ‘camping’
Do you ever have one of those perfect weekends? The one where you spend more time outside than in, have great adventures, see amazing scenery, are close to wildlife, and have great company doing it?
Well I just had one of those weekends!
I decided that it was finally time to do a real backpacking trip. I’ve been accumulating backpacking gear for a while but hadn’t ever done a trip. I’m not experienced and I was waiting to meet somebody who knew what they were doing. The last thing I needed was to hike three miles into the forest with somebody inexperienced. I’ll live without the blind-leading-the-blind, thank you very much!
For my adventure, my friend Ben & I decided to hike into a mine that had a seep coming out of it. And if there just happened to be a geocache there, well, yay for us!
We basically hiked about five miles round trip. And the scenery was stunning and the weather perfect!
At the mine I realized that we really hadn’t read the cache description all that well. (To be honest, I hadn’t read it at all!) And I hadn’t printed out the cache pages. I always print the cache description page because geocaching can take you well out of cell service!
We weren’t sure if the cache was in the cave or not (still not sure since we never did find it) but I did find something cool in the cave:
Lots of little brown and grey bats. Say what you want about bats, they are off-the-chart cool. The cave twists back into the hillside at least 100′. In the last thirty feet there were bats everywhere. Stuck to the ceiling like fuzzy light fixtures, squeezing out of holes about three inches across, and just dangling one at a time.
And no, I didn’t touch one! Nor did they come anywhere close to getting in my hair. But I did turn off the lights and kneel a moment in the black and listen to them squeak at each other. And felt the wind of one’s passing as it flew overhead. I really didn’t have the right camera equipment to get any good photos. And I couldn’t really sit on the mine’s floor since the seep was at the very back and the entire floor of the mine had at least two inches of water covering it.
I got one photo with Ben shining the light on a hole and, yes, I did take one photo with flash. I just couldn’t help myself. I left right after that since I’d woken them all up and I didn’t want to agitate them any more. I’m planning a trip back with better camera gear to get some photos!
Let me just say this, walking out the last time (took a total of three trips into the mine looking for the cache) I was treated to a view of Ben’s silhouette in the entrance and four bats flying between him & I. They didn’t want to pass either of us. But I crouched low so they could go over my head and got to watch the sunlight stream through their wings.
The original goal was to hike up to the ridgeline above the mine and along the mesa until we could see the valley below and then camp. But the ridge was, well, not exactly hiking friendly. Very steep, rugged terrain. We did try it but gave it up as a bad job.
So, on to plan B: return to the truck and then drive to the other side of Chino Valley and hike into the Verde River.
After about five miles round trip (hauling a 30+ pound backpack!) that’s what we did!
The access to the river was in a remote spot that required 4-wheel drive so we had the whole area to ourselves. And it wasn’t that far of a hike from truck to river. Thank goodness because I’m not sure how much farther I wanted to hike. My super cool pack was a super good buy. And it doesn’t fit me as well as I’d like!
After a great night under a full moon, it was a hike back out in the morning!
I will say this: I think I may well be addicted to backpacking now. I love the ability to hike away from other campers and enjoy the wilderness. And I loved knowing that an ATV or 4-wheel drive wasn’t going to come screeching down the road and get dust all over my tent because we were miles from any road!
The great folks over at http://www.lnt.org say it perfectly. And why mess with perfection:
The member-driven Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org
The Seven Principles
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you’ll visit.
Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups.
Repackage food to minimize waste.
Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
In popular areas:
Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
In pristine areas:
Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter.
Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
Leave What You Find
Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
Let nature’s sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises.
So what does this amount to if you’re camping in a developed campground?
Clean up after yourself. Follow any posted campground rules and the requests of the camp hosts. Don’t damage what’s there. Remember that you want to leave the campground as-is for generations of campers to follow!
I’m going camping this weekend with my best friend Jessica. Yay! I haven’t been out since May, mostly because I’ve been super busy and the Arizona monsoons hadn’t started yet. Who wants to go camping when it’s hot, dry and windy? Bleck.
The funny thing about writing this eBook is that while I’ve been writing about camping basics since May 2006, I’ve never really stopped to think about all the things I take for granted that are completely new to a beginner. I’ve been working on the book since April, I had hoped for a release just before Memorial Day. Alas, I keep discovering more things that need to be added, clarified, and expanded. (Up to 157 pages and counting!)
This past May, I went camping with my “BS Club” to a private campground. I took Skippy the Tent Trailer. A couple of my girls stayed in tents and two “roughed it” in a cabin. Since I’m the only one with a pickup truck, I ended up taking a lot of the supplies with me. And it surprised me that some of the girls packed in real, honest-to-goodness suitcases. Not duffels which are stuffable around other bits of gear. Nope, suitcases that you can’t mash into another shape. And if they’re not full, well that’s too bad ’cause they don’t get any littler!
Bang! The concept of telling beginner campers to pack in duffle bags went into the section on packing.
My friend James proofread the first 50 pages or so for me. And in his notes, after I mentioned that primitive campgrounds regularly lack potable water he put in a little [?potable?] note. And I realized that not everybody knows that potable means drinking water.
I reached out to my Facebook friends for their suggestions. I had no fewer that THREE people tell me: “Put your tent together before you go; make sure nothing’s broken and you have all the parts!”
And I thought that was common sense!
As I am getting ready for this trip, running through real and mental checklists, I’m also going back to my own manuscript. Making sure I’m clear, that I haven’t left anything out that might be obvious to me but would take a newbie by surprise.
So, what’s your advice to the knows-nothing camper? What is a camping myth that you may have held that you now know is false?
And, please, give me feedback on the cover ideas! Courtesy of Jessica.
This article will appear in my soon-to-be-released eBook about Camping For Beginners. Please leave me your comments on it and I will potentially include them in the final draft of the book. You can also use the links for Kindle and Nook to view my current titles.
The car is packed, the kids are excited and the campground is calling your name! But what are you going to do once you get to the campground?
First off, remember that kids can and should be enlisted to help with setting up camp. Not only does it make them feel important, it teaches them that while this may be a family vacation, they’re not at a 5-star resort where everything is done for them. Or, as my mother is fond of saying, “This isn’t a Howard Johnson, you know!”
By including your child in helping you also can keep an eye on them without making it obvious! Unless your child is in diapers, they have something to contribute. Little kids can help move sticks and pinecones off the tent pad. Older kids can help unload the car, put tent poles together, gather firewood, keep track of smaller kids, etc. When I was too young to be of much real help, my job was holding the dog’s leash while my folks did most of the important setting up or tearing down.
And when it is time to pack up and go home, just reverse the process! Kids are especially good to recruit to clean the campsite and pick up any wayward trash you or any prior camper left behind. I know one family that has every family member pick up one piece of trash for every year they’ve accumulated. The seven-year-old has to keep her thirty-three year old father from “stealing” her trash!
As you set up, make sure that you’re clear that everyone needs to take care of their own stuff. Adults are on the trip to have a good time too, not to baby sit toys, hats, and drinks. I recommend labeling any item that might be fought over: balls, hats, marshmallow sticks, etc.
I also recommend assigning each family member their own water bottle or canteen. Write their name on a PBA-free washable water bottle with a permanent marker. Other drinks can be served from plastic cups but that way each child knows which water bottle is theirs.
Hanging out in camp
Hanging out at the campsite is not at all like hanging out at home. There is no refrigerator to peer into looking for a snack so make sure that you have plenty of kid-friendly foods on hand. I never wanted to take time from camping to eat so my mom was always sure to keep my favorite balanced snacks on hand so she could stuff one in my hand and off I’d go. Remember that whatever you normally eat at home, you can eat at camp!
I recommend taking both large air-tight containers of snack foods for sharing and individual portions so your child can grab it and take it with him. Just remember that any large container that goes to camp full has to come home empty! I recommend packing snacks into plastic bags to save on space.
Make sure your child stays hydrated. So drink lots. And I don’t mean soda! Take extra measures to keep kids (and adults) hydrated. That means plenty of water or clear liquids. Juices and sports drinks are okay, but in moderation. While camping is an excuse to break from routine, make sure that your kids are drinking plenty of appropriate liquids to keep them hydrated.
Plan for First Aid. It’s likely to get bug bites. And scraped knees. And a splinter. And, you get the point. Make sure that a full bottle of quality sunscreen is packed with your first aid supplies and that you apply it liberally and often. Sunburn is especially common at higher, cooler elevations where the sun doesn’t feel as intense and it feels so good to sit in the sun to stay warm. Trust me, sunburns happen even in the mountains! And they’re not fun anytime but especially miserable when you’re not at home!
It’s been suggested to me to pack spray-on sunscreen. It goes on evenly even when your kid is filthy dirty from playing in the dirt all day. A rub-on sunscreen applied over dirt and sweat can streak and leave your kids sunburned in streaks. Not fun!
Remember that while you’re on vacation and everything is flexible, kids may still need their nap. Take a few books or stuffed animals to help them quiet down. Even if your daughter doesn’t actually sleep, a half-hour resting will do wonders for her attitude. And yours too!
Along that vein, its okay to try for some semblance of routine while you’re camping, like enforcing bedtimes. Know your kid: what routine do you really need to follow to keep everybody happy and sane? Does he have to have a bedtime story? His favorite stuffed animal? The best part of camping is that you get to set the schedule so you can schedule what works for your child.
Eating outside is GOOD. But it may take some getting used to! You will eat dirt. Get over it.
In the tent
It’s every parent’s nightmare that their child will get out of the tent in the middle of the night and wander off. The littlest are unafraid of anything and will happily wander off after dark. Older children might want to sneak off on purpose. (Unless they’re like me: afraid of the dark!)
Put an adult in front of each door to the tent. That way, any child making a break for it would have to crawl over a sleeping adult to get out. And if you’re child is afraid of the dark, then he can sleep better knowing that there’s somebody between him and the great outdoors!
If you have more doors than parents, you can safety pin the zipper shut. If you have two zippers, just pin them together. If the door only has a single zipper, you can pin it shut by putting the pin through the hole in the zipper and fastening it to a duffle bag just inside the tent. I don’t recommend pinning the zipper to the tent itself because you’ll be putting a hole in the tent fabric!
Realize that no matter how many times you make them use the restroom before you go to bed, somebody will have to go potty in the middle of night. Take a flashlight and remember that camping is an adventure! If an adult has to go, you need to decide if you need to wake your child at the same time. It might be better to wake your kid when you’re up already rather than have her wake you just as you are falling back to sleep! And, you also don’t want to frighten your child if they wake and find you gone.
If you’re not staying in a campground with bathrooms, be sure to teach your little girl how to go potty outside. And do it in the daylight! My cousin Kris, the mother of three girls, just says, “Camp someplace with a potty. Little girls don’t go in the wilderness!” I remember when I was a little girl and hated peeing outside. Again, this comes back to knowing your child: if it’s an adventure, go for it. If it will stress them out and they’ll try to “hold it” all weekend, then you’re better off camping someplace with a restroom.
It’s also a given, your kid will likely get cold in the night. Plan ahead and know they’ll be snuggling into your sleeping bag sometime in the night. You can also pack two kids into a roomy sleeping bag so everybody stays toasty.
Kids can get uncomfortable in adult-sized furniture. You can get collapsible kid-sized picnic tables and camping chairs. It can be especially difficult for children to eat at a picnic table when they can’t sit on the bench and reach the table!
When you’re leaving camp for a walk around the campground or to go on a hike, make a hiking train. This is where you sandwich the kids between the adults. It allows an adult to lead the way and the second adult to be able to see all the kids at all times. If you’re camping in an area with snakes, it also has a responsible party scanning the trail for slithering friends.
If you don’t have the advantage of a second adult on your camping trip, you can accomplish the same result by having everyone hold hands.
Two final thoughts from every camping mom I’ve ever met:
1. Baby wipes are your friend
2. Extra washcloths and a dab of water can clean anything
There are three places where you can head for a camping vacation: a public campground, a private campground, or dispersed camping.
These facilities are run by some sort of government entity like the Forest Service, a State or National Park Service, County, etc.
Pros of a Public Campground:
They are usually inexpensive. Nightly camping fees typically run anywhere from a few dollars to around twenty dollars per night. Plus, most public campgrounds offer the same amenities at every single campground, namely a picnic table and fire ring. And if you’re 62 or older, and a US citizen, you can purchase a Senior Pass. It’s a lifetime pass that gives 50% discounts to many public campgrounds.
Cons of a Public Campground:
It’s public. That means that anyone who can pay the fee is allowed to stay. That being said, all campers must obey the posted rules but no one will be turned away because of dogs, small children, or large RVs. You get all types in a public campground! And while some campsites in some campgrounds can be reserved, the majority of campsites are first-come, first-served.
These are owned by a company, franchisee, or individual. The most famous brand of private campground is KOA or Kampgrounds of America.
Pros of a Private Campground:
Because they’re privately owned, private campgrounds can be selective as to who they allow to camp. There are campgrounds that cater to 60+ only and campgrounds that welcome children. There are usually greater amenities than in a public campground. They can usually be rented on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and almost every private campground will offer reservations.
Cons of a Private Campground:
Private campgrounds tend to be more expensive than their public campground counterparts. And many feature campsites that are very close together. It’s a business thing: the more campers you can get per acre, the more money can be made in rent. Lots of private campgrounds cater to huge RVs and some don’t permit tent-camping. Even if you can tent camp there, be prepared to have enormous RVs on every side.
Dispersed camping is camping outside of a campground on public lands.
Pros of a Dispersed Camping:
You can spread out to your heart’s content! In most areas campsites are spread far from neighbors so you can enjoy nature all by yourself. It can be so quiet you’ll feel like you’re the only person on Earth. And if you want to have a rowdy volleyball game there’s no camp host to come tell you to quite down.
Cons of a Dispersed Camping:
But… Because there is no one in charge, there’s no one to stop a neighbor from running ATVs up and down the road all day, blasting music, or generally being obnoxious. And before you pitch your tent, it will be your responsibility to make sure that you’re allowed to camp there, obtain any needed permits, and be familiar with all the local rules, laws, and ordinances. In dispersed camping, it’s just you and what you bring: no bathrooms, no potable water, and no trash service.
Public and private campgrounds also break down into an additional three categories that are used to describe how many amenities they offer.
Primitive campgrounds have limited facilities like restrooms and potable water and very few amenities. You’ll most likely get the bare minimum basics here: a fire ring and a picnic table. Of course, since there are hardly any amenities, the cost is usually kept very low at a primitive campground. Primitive campgrounds are usually public campgrounds as well.
A primitive campground will not have paved roads. They are usually geared towards tent camping only but some may permit small RVs.
Developed campgrounds are friendly to tents and RVs. In addition to offering a fire ring and picnic table, a developed campground will also offer restrooms and potable water. They may also offer trash service and even recycling. Some developed campgrounds have additional amenities like barbeque grates for the fire ring or stand barbeques, leveled gravel tent pads, and maintained paths to water spigots and restrooms.
A developed campground may offer paved roads throughout the campground. If not, then the roads will be well-maintained.
You can find both public and private developed campgrounds. Expect to pay more for campsites than at a primitive campground.
A full-hookup campground caters to RVs. In addition to picnic tables and fire rings, each campsite will offer electricity and potable water; many will also offer sewer connections. There are limited full-hookup public campgrounds; most are privately owned and operated. Before heading to a campground that says they are full-hookup, verify that they allow tent camping.
There are advantages to tent camping in a full-hookup campground, especially in the hot summer months in that you can bring a portable fan and run an extension cord into your tent.
Full-hookup campgrounds usually offer a variety of other amenities like showers, playgrounds, swimming pools, etc. Just be aware that the more amenities there are, the higher the cost! Also, the people who own the huge RVs gravitate towards a full-hookup campground so they can take advantage of the amenities as well.
Readers Weigh In:
- Do you have a favorite type of campground?
- What do you feel about dispersed camping?
I really like camping out in the sticks — dispersed, dry camping where I have to haul in all my own stuff (including water), use my porta-potty, and haul out all my trash. But, on holiday weekends, all the traffic from ATVs and trucks can make me nutsy, so I head to a campground. There’s nothing worse than camping in a developed campground than inconsiderate neighbors!
1. Respect other’s rights.
2. Be noise aware.
I have no problem with shouting children having fun during the day — I love to see families out camping! However, noise like radios, generators, yelling for no reason, and fighting is really rude. You should also obey the campground’s quiet hours. Voices, radios and other noises carry further than you might think on a quiet evening. (A good rule is to tone down the noise as the sun sets.) Most of the time, when you’re camping you get up with the sun, which means getting up early. Respect the wishes of those rare people who want to sleep in and keep morning noise to a minimum as well.
A few summers ago, my folks went camping in Arizona’s White Mountains. For the last three days of their trip, a HUGE RV pulled in beside them and ran the generator non-stop! My folks ended up leaving a day early because of the noise and smell.
If you’re going camping, CAMP! Get out of the RV and enjoy nature. If you’re going to use your generator (we’ve got one, so you know I approve of them) be sure to be considerate of others.
3. Pack out what you pack in.
You should leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. If the campground has campground hosts, they are responsible to keep the campground tidy — NOT to clean up after wild parties! Many campgrounds have trash service that you should use, making sure to close the lids tightly to keep animals out. Recycle when possible — many campgrounds have recycling programs.
4. Keep your pets under control.
If you camp with your dog (or cat!), keep Fido contained and clean up after him, just like you do in a city park. Before tying him to a tree, make sure it’s permitted. (I prefer collapsible pens.) If your dog likes to bark, like Lily does, then make sure you keep it under control. Lily barks when somebody walks by and then stops — if she continues, I put her in the trailer.
5. Don’t cut living trees for firewood.
In Arizona, most of the time, any downed (dead) wood is good to use, but not necessarily the dead wood on a living tree. California has completely different rules so know the campground’s rule on finding your own wood or buying it.
6. Clean up after yourself.
Campground facilities exist for the benefit of all campers. Help keep them clean!
7. Be water respectful.
Do not clean fish or wash dishes in lakes or streams. Waste water (grey or black) should not be dumped in a lake, stream, or on the ground. If the campground offers potable water (drinking water from a faucet), know the rules of what you can and can’t do at the spigot. Most of the time, this means no washing ANYTHING at the spigot, including hands.
8. Know and respect the campground’s rules, even if you don’t understand the reasons for them.
The rules have been established to protect and respect the rights of campers, the campground, and the environment.
Readers Weigh In
- If you know of any campground etiquette issues I’ve missed or that particularly make you mad, post it in the comments.
You know I’m in love with my new-to-me tent trailer Skippy. Skippy is a 1998 Coleman Taos that had been used a grand total of three times before I bought it. Because of the low usage, the interior AND the exterior are in pristine condition.
And I want to keep it that way!
One of the things that I do is the second I open up the trailer, before I put ANYTHING on the beds, I put a sheet over the mattresses. On both beds — not just the one I sleep on! It’s nothing special, just a cheap flat sheet from a twin bed. But then, I know that the dust that blows in the open windows all day won’t get into the mattresses as quickly. And when I toss my dirty duffle bag and shoes onto the bed, the mattress won’t get torn, snagged, or damaged.
When I get home, all I have to do is throw the sheets in the wash and they’re ready to go for the next trip. And if they DO become worn beyond repair — Hey! They were like $3 a piece.
Then, get a bunch of little non-slip rugs to lay down inside. Basically, the goal is to put down wall-to-wall carpet in the trailer. But by using small no-slip rugs, it’s easy to take them outside and shake them out.
If at all possible, I don’t wear my shoes into the trailer. In stead, I keep a plastic tub (with a lid) just outside the trailer door. I slip off my shoes, tuck them in the tub, and then put the lid on. I know that no critters can get in there and if it rains (or the dew falls) my shoes will still be dry.
I was really lucky with Skippy because I don’t have to climb OVER the seats at the dinette to get to the back bed. But in the tent trailers my family has owned in the past, we haven’t always been that lucky. In that case, I’m always super careful to NEVER put my shoe on the dinette seat cushion. Either use your knee as a booster or take off your shoe.
Readers Weigh In:
- What tips do you have to keep your RV clean? (Or cleaner?)
If you’re anything like me then pancakes are a must-have camping breakfast staple. There’s just something about sitting on a cold cement picnic table in the early morning snarffing down hot, fluffy pancakes that is just perfection.
Of course, I’ve always found the MAKING of pancakes in camp to be messy and difficult! If you’re talented in the kitchen you can always make them from scratch OR even bring a powdered mix and add the wet ingredients. The issue is then having a big enough bowl for mixing, bringing a wire whisk so the attempt is made to have the pancakes fluffy, a large spoon to scoop the batter. And then the cleanup!
And if you don’t deal with pancake batter right away… Well let’s just say that it can do a pretty good job of FIXING that cement picnic table after it dries in the bottom of the bowl!
Ha! It was better!
Code Wolf & I had the 10.6 oz container which promised 12-15 4-inch pancakes. All we needed was some cold water, shake and ta-dah! (Of course, I forgot my measuring cup so I estimated with a water bottle…)
It did take some shaking and tapping to get all the batter mixed in so make sure that you have somebody really shake the jar hard. I was impressed that the lid didn’t pop off the container or have any leakage AT ALL.
Then pour a dab of batter into a hot, greased skillet and INSTANT fluffy pancakes!
There was no way that just two of us could use a whole bottle of batter in just one sitting. But the left-over batter is good for up to 3 days refrigerated. So I just popped it back into the ice chest and we had pancakes the next morning too.
And as for the 12-15 pancakes, we ended up with 17 between the two breakfasts. If I had gotten really aggressive with the bit of batter left in the bottle, I think I could have made one more.
The only thing that is a bit of a negative is the price: $2.99. I expect to pay a bit more for the convenience for when I’m cooking outside. You’d need multiple bottles to feed a larger family or a whole host of kids. But the trade-off in easy: that’s priceless!
Readers Weigh In:
- Have you tried Bisquick Shake ‘n Pour Buttermilk Pancake Mix? What was your experience?
- What type of camping convenience products do you love?
Links are to my Amazon.com affiliate account.
The Perfect S’mores Technique
S’mores are a quintessential part of any camping trip. And they seem really easy to make right? Toast a marshmallow and smash it between two graham crackers and a half of a Hershey’s chocolate bar.
While that is the basic theory, the reality is so much more!
And, as I learned on last weekend’s camping trip with Code Wolf, writing a whole article about the best way to prepare a s’more really isn’t an unneeded topic. Code Wolf is a camping newbie so it’s really been instrumental to figure out how to fill in the gaps in his outdoor-life knowledge. And s’mores… well, let’s just say that he took to making s’mores like he’s been doing it all his life.
Personally, I think it’s because he had a great teacher!
Do me a favor and FORGET thinking you can make s’mores in a microwave or over a gas stove.
THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!
Give it up: Go camping! Get dirty! Make s’mores like a Princess: over the fire!
Step 1: The fire.
You’ll want an established fire that isn’t too smoky. I like to have it going for at least twenty minutes before I try to make my s’more. That way, the coals are nice and hot and you’ve progressed past the burning kindling and newspaper stage. (Very gross-tasting smoke!)
Step 2: Lower the grate.
This is why I LOVE making s’mores in a campground’s fire ring: the grate! I like it so it’s about 3-4 inches above the top of the flames. I lower the grate early so it starts to get hot.
Step 3: Prepare the toasting boat.
Make a “boat” out of tin foil. I take about a foot-long piece, fold it in half and then fold up the edges. I want a flat-bottom boat that is a bit rigid.
Step 4: The s’more bases
You’ll want a full half of a graham cracker. The closer you get to a complete half, the easier it is to assemble the s’more later.
And do yourself a favor: get the good ones! Please, PLEASE don’t settle for the tasteless store brand! Just like you wouldn’t make a steak with a cheap cut of meat, make your s’mores with the best ingredients!
Top each base with 1/4 to 1/2 of the Hershey’s chocolate bar. I prefer to use 1/4 (that’s 1 row of 3 pieces) because then the whole s’more isn’t so sticky sweet.
Step 5: Melt the chocolate
With the bases in the boat, you’ll place the boat on the heated grate. I like them close to the flames but not directly OVER. I’m trying to get it so my chocolate is a bit melted at the time the marshmallow is toasted.
Step 6: Toast the marshmallow
I know there are people who like their marshmallows burnt black. And while I do enjoy a turn-your-teeth-black, make-every-dentist-in-the-world-cringe charred marshmallow occasionally, that isn’t how I like my marshmallow for a s’more.
I toast mine until they’re evenly browned.
Here’s the trick:
- no more than 1 marshmallow on the stick at a time
- keep it moving (rotating)
- keep it just above the flames so it’s HEAT not FIRE that does the cooking
My friends Les & Kathy gave me a set of Mallow Masters by Barr Brothers. These things are GREAT! The plastic keeps your hands from getting hot and the double tines (retractable) keep the marshmallow in place. Heat doesn’t seem to travel up the prongs. Get Mallow Masters from Amazon.com! (Affiliate link)
Step 7: Assembly
This is where it can get tricky because everything is hot and melting and sticky. It’s okay to ask for help here because you don’t want to get a sugar burn from anything — they’re VERY painful and can be really dangerous!
Transfer the foil boat to a paper plate or picnic table to make life easier!
Place the roasted marshmallow on top of the chocolate and top with the other half of a graham cracker. While gently squeezing the two halves together, slide the stick out of the marshmallow.
This is where the plate comes in handy so when the chocolate oozes out it doesn’t get onto clothes, hands, or the dog!
Let cool just a bit (a burnt tongue interferes with eating a s’more!) and enjoy!
Readers Weigh In:
- What’s you s’more making technique?
I’m back from the maiden voyage of Skippy the Tent Trailer! For our “shake down cruise,” a friend & I decided to stick pretty close to home by heading to Williams. We stayed at White Horse Lake Campground which is the largest campground in the Williams area.
Here are some of the things we learned:
- Pull-through campsites mean you don’t have to *gasp* back up the trailer!
- You’ll always forget something you need (bow saw, syrup for pancakes, Lily’s tick medicine.)
- Leave early (Thursdays are good) to get a pull-though campsite.
- Stop and snap pics of the sheep.
- White Horse Lake Campground doesn’t have a single pull-through campsite.
- There is a perfect speed that makes dirt roads less bumpy.
- You’ll always follow somebody who doesn’t know this and drives so slow your teeth rattle out of your head.
- No matter how fast or slow you drive, everything will be covered in dust!
- S’mores are the best when the chocolate is a little bit melted.
- The Forest Ranger will always come to your camp to invite you to their evening talk RIGHT as you are burning dinner.
- Get dirty.
- After twenty minutes of trying to back the tent trailer into the campsite RIGHT WHERE IT IS NOW is good enough.
- Oatmeal Stout beer and s’mores go together surprisingly well.
- Bring more trash bags and paper towels than you think you’ll need.
- Dogs are bed hogs.
- No matter how short you cut your fingernails, they WILL get dirty.
- When your friend tells you you’re over-packing, ignore him. He’ll appreciate all the “extra” things you bring.
- Always bring sweatpants to sleep in.
- Take plenty of pictures!
- Put extra sunscreen on your nose. You’ll regret it later if you don’t!
- When you just can’t get the tent trailer to come down, find another tent trailer owner and beg for help.
- Keep an extra beer on hand to offer to said tent-trailer helper.
- It takes Lily 24 hours to get into the groove of camping.
- Three days without a shower is my limit.
- When your dog jumps out of the kayak, be thankful you not only put her in her life vest, you attached it to the kayak!
- Meals taste better outside.
- Sleep in at least one morning.
- Have the first meal of the trip already cooked so all you have to do it heat it up.
- When you’re saying “Yes dear!” while gritting your teeth, it’s time to stop trying to back up the trailer and time to start heating dinner!
- Bring plenty of snack food.
- Buy enough wood to have a fire and then collect more to keep it going.
- No matter what you do, cooking corn over the campfire will get you filthy!