Posts Tagged ‘camping’

Mystery Monday: Skippy’s Maiden Voyage

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.

Coleman Taos Tent Trailer aka Skippy

Here are some of the things we learned:

  1. Pull-through campsites mean you don’t have to *gasp* back up the trailer!
  2. You’ll always forget something you need (bow saw, syrup for pancakes, Lily’s tick medicine.)
  3. Leave early (Thursdays are good) to get a pull-though campsite.
  4. Stop and snap pics of the sheep.Sheep near Williams, AZ
  5. White Horse Lake Campground doesn’t have a single pull-through campsite.
  6. There is a perfect speed that makes dirt roads less bumpy.
  7. You’ll always follow somebody who doesn’t know this and drives so slow your teeth rattle out of your head.
  8. No matter how fast or slow you drive, everything will be covered in dust!
  9. S’mores are the best when the chocolate is a little bit melted.S'more
  10. The Forest Ranger will always come to your camp to invite you to their evening talk RIGHT as you are burning dinner.
  11. Get dirty.
  12. After twenty minutes of trying to back the tent trailer into the campsite RIGHT WHERE IT IS NOW is good enough.
  13. Oatmeal Stout beer and s’mores go together surprisingly well.Oatmeal Stout Beer
  14. Bring more trash bags and paper towels than you think you’ll need.
  15. Dogs are bed hogs.
  16. No matter how short you cut your fingernails, they WILL get dirty.
  17. When your friend tells you you’re over-packing, ignore him. He’ll appreciate all the “extra” things you bring.
  18. Always bring sweatpants to sleep in.
  19. Take plenty of pictures!
  20. Put extra sunscreen on your nose. You’ll regret it later if you don’t!
  21. When you just can’t get the tent trailer to come down, find another tent trailer owner and beg for help.
  22. Keep an extra beer on hand to offer to said tent-trailer helper.
  23. It takes Lily 24 hours to get into the groove of camping.
  24. Three days without a shower is my limit.
  25. 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!
  26. Meals taste better outside.Cooking Outside
  27. Sleep in at least one morning.
  28. Have the first meal of the trip already cooked so all you have to do it heat it up.
  29. 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!
  30. Bring plenty of snack food.
  31. Buy enough wood to have a fire and then collect more to keep it going.Corn over the fire
  32. No matter what you do, cooking corn over the campfire will get you filthy!

Product Review: Pitch Your Tent

In late summer of 2010 I was asked by a blog and newsletter reader to do some reviews of various types of insect repellants. Now, as The Outdoor Princess, I realize that bugs are just a part of being outside.

But, I will admit, as part of doing this research, I was surprised at how many people said that they absolutely never go outside for hikes, camping, or geocaching without some type of bug spray. Here in Arizona, we have our share of biting bugs, but thankfully, we’re pretty much safe from ticks, chiggers, and no-see-ums.

For all the long-term blog and newsletter readers, you’ll know that I’m allergic to pretty much everything that grows here in Northern Arizona. So, last September, I mentioned to my allergist that I wanted to do a product testing article and review on various insect repellants.

Well! Dr. Zeschke got very animated about that subject. (He’s opinionated about EVERYTHING so it wasn’t surprising.) Dr. Z told me that I absolutely had to test insect repellent clothing. He’s an avid hunter and when he told me that a shirt and hat were enough to keep the car-sized mosquitoes at bay in the Arctic Circle in the middle of summer, he had my attention.

The shirt I tested.

I contacted the great people over at Insect Shield to see if I could test their products and see if Dr. Z was right or if his success was an isolated incident. Not only are the Insect Shield shirts insect repellent, many are also rated at 30 SPF. Very cool!

The Test

My Insect Shield long-sleeved shirt arrived via UPS (happy). Of course, it arrived on the Tuesday before Labor Day weekend so there was no way I could test it until the holiday weekend.

Test 1:

Sunset picnic at Fain Park

Fain Park has a small trout pond so I thought it would be PERFECT for an evening test. I sat at a picnic table for a few minutes (munching KFC chicken) and looking for mosquitoes. The light breeze would have been great on a normal night but not when I was LOOKING for bugs! I finally found one buzzing around and then ran to my truck to put on the Insect Shield shirt. I never saw that mosquito again, or any others, all evening, even when I walked by the water.

Test 2:

Morning kayak at Lynx Lake

It was interesting to kayak in long sleeves, but I got used to it quickly.

Lynx is a beautiful lake here in Prescott. I really wanted to try out the SPF 30 rating on the shirt so I made sure NOT to put any sunscreen on my arms under the shirt. It took a while to get used to wearing long sleeves in the heat, but after ten minutes or so, I really didn’t notice if I was hot at all. I didn’t see a single bug all trip so I don’t know if it was the Insect Shield technology or if it was just a bug-free day. I can say that the SPF 30 worked like a charm though. I didn’t get any color on my arms but I DID get pink on my hands. I’ll remember next time to put sunscreen on my hands!

Test 3:

Morning kayak at Goldwater Lake

I was determined to find mosquitoes at the lake so I could really test the insect repelling properties of my new shirt. I saw several swarms buzzing around various trash cans and signs, but they were all too far away from my kayak. Then I hit the jackpot! I large swarm of mosquitoes buzzing along the shore, a foot above the water, near a tree. I kayaked over and held out an arm. Poof! All the mosquitoes got near the shirt and then promptly took off. Gone! Outta there! Adios!

Test 4:

Afternoon geocaching in Prescott National Forest

It was a lovely day for geocaching: hot and buggy. But not a bug to be seen near me!

In my area of Arizona, it seems the nastiest mosquitoes are the really hungry ones that lurk on the sides of the trails. So I went geocaching along trails, in bushes, and over boulders. No bugs. Even when I could see them up head on the trail, by the time I got close: gone! The closest I came was when I brushed a bug off a bush I was pushing through and onto me. The clothing not only repelled bugs, it also held up well to sweat (breathable and not too hot) and didn’t snag or catch when I was pushing through scrub oak. I was still careful with it as I bushwhacked, but I didn’t feel like I needed to find a path AROUND the bushes!

The Results

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit, I figured the clothing would work (truth in marketing) but I wasn’t prepared for how WELL it worked. When I saw all those mosquitoes head for the hills on the lake, I was sold on the Insect Shield Repellant Clothing right then.

I hate getting bit by mosquitoes. Like when I went camping with Nicole — mosquitoes turned our trip from “Great!” into “Okay”. But with this shirt… I’m 100% sold. This is a must-have for any adventure weather it is geocaching, camping, kayaking, hiking, hunting, biking, fishing, bird watching… (you get the picture!)

Pros

  • The clothing repels all types of bugs: mosquitoes, chiggers, black flies, ticks, ants, etc.
  • SPF 30 (not all clothing, but a lot of styles)
  • Very stylish (pockets, breathable, variety of colors)
  • No mosquitoes! It even kept the flies away.
  • Excellent construction (I didn’t worry when I was pushing through the brush going after geocaches)
  • Comes in a variety of styles: shirts, pants, socks, bandannas and more
  • Lasts through 70 washes. Which, when I sat down and did the math, comes out to be 3 years or so. I wore it as a shell (over my tee shirt) so even though I wore it 4 times, I don’t feel it needs to be laundered.
  • Not a bug bite all weekend (while I was wearing the shirt. Without…well, that’s another story!)
  • Wash at home like any other piece of clothing. In fact, if you dry clean an Insect Shield product, it removes the bug repellent!
  • Not putting chemicals onto your skin. (That’s a big thing that Dr. Z really liked about the clothing!)
  • Kid and pet safe. Tie a bandanna around your dog’s neck, or over your kid’s head and you’re good to go!

Cons

  • Price. Clothing ranges from $20 to $80. My shirt was $80, so it can be kind of spendy. BUT, when you figure that on a per-wearing basis (maybe wear twice before washing?) then it comes out to be about $0.57 per use. Not bad!
  • You have to wear long sleeves in the heat. Of course, if you’re in an area with ticks, you probably wear long pants and long sleeves ANYWAY so it probably doesn’t make much difference.
  • You have to remember to bring it with you AND to wear it. Trust me, insect repellents (of any type) don’t do much good sitting at home!

About Insect Shield Technology

Insect Shield uses a man-made version of a natural insect repellent found in certain types of chrysanthemum flowers, like an African Daisy. There is a patent-pending process and proprietary formulation that secures the active ingredient to the fabric fibers. It lasts through 70 washings which would be more than the life of the garment.

Please check out Insect Shield on Facebook or directly on their website.

Where To Get The Clothing

If you follow any of these links and purchase your Insect Shield clothing, then I get credit as an affiliate. And that’s a GOOD thing!

Continuing Results

I’ve worn my Insect Shield shirt from everything to kayaking to hiking, gardening to parade watching and the shirt WORKS. After the initial test, I had no issues wearing long sleeves in the heat.

Knowing that I’m safe from bugs AND sunburn: wow!

Though the affiliate links above, I’ve also sold over $400 worth of Insect Shield clothing. Not one person has written to me complaining about the products either. This product is fantastic and I tell everybody I know about it. Well worth the money!

Future Testing

ESP Boss and the Queen Mother will be taking a 4 week long trip this June through Zion National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Montana. They’ll both be wearing Insect Shield shirts. As soon as they get back, we’ll get the results of their trip.

When I contacted the makers of a spray-on insect repellent last summer they NEVER got back to me. I’ll try again this spring. The same thing happened when I contacted the makers of the insect repellant bracelet.

However, I did get an all-natural product to test. That’ll be coming up in the next weeks so look for it!

Pitch Your Tent: Spring Pre-Camping Checklist

Spring Camping Maintanence

Yeah! I am so excited it’s FINALLY spring. It’s been a long LONG winter here in Chino Valley. To make matters worse, spring teased us several times by getting warm and then snowing. Getting warm and then having knock-you-down wind that dropped the temperatures back into sweatshirt weather.

But it’s spring. For real. (And if it’s NOT for real, I’m here to tell winter to take a hike!)

That means that it’s time to do a pre-season shakedown of all your camping gear and head out!

Stoves and table top BBQs: Wipe them down from any residual grease or food particles. Yes, you should have done this in the fall, but a winter of storage will usually attract dust (and other more unsavory things!) to any spots you missed.

Stoves

Dirty campstove

Fuel: Check your stove’s fuel source to make sure you have enough and that it didn’t leak away over the winter. (Scary!) It is a good time to take the stove or BBQ outside and fire it up to make sure that all the hoses and connections are still in good shape. Replace anything that you’re worried about.

propane fuel

Lanterns: take a look at the mantels to make sure they don’t need to be replaced. Make sure you have a stock of replacements on hand. (And yes, I use a propane lantern like the one pictured below. BUT, I also carry a battery powered one as well!)

Lanterns

Propane lantern

Ice Chests: Check for mold, mildew, sour smells and left-over bologna sandwiches. A little chlorine bleach and mild detergent should clean them up sufficiently. I’m also a big fan of letting them sit opened in the sun for a while; UV rays kill a lot of icky things. Just be sure to properly store the ice chests away from UV rays since they’ll deteriorate the plastic and shorten the life of the ice chest.

Ice Chests

Ice Chest

Water Containers: You DID completely empty them and allow the inside to fully dry, right? If you grew mold in your water container over the winter, you might want to consider replacing the container; you’ll probably always have a funny taste. Make sure all the seals still work and that the inside is clean, dry and critter (bugs or mold) free.

Aqua-Tainer (this is the brand I use personally!)

Water Container

First aid kit: Make sure that you replenished any supplies you used last year. I recommend opening a bandage and making sure the adhesive hasn’t turned into a sticky mess. (Be sure to replace it!) Discard any outdated medicines. If any ointments look or smell funny, replace them as well.

First aid kit. Get a pre-made one and then customize it to your family.

First aid kit

Sleeping bags and pads: open and fluff! Look for any smells (mold or mildew are possible!), check zippers, drawstrings, etc. Now’s the time to repair any holes, rips or tears in your bag as well. Be sure to inflate your sleeping pads and check for leaks.

Sleeping bags

sleeping bags

 

See my article on sleeping bag maintenance.

Tents: set it up and make sure that all the zippers still work, the seams are in good condition, and all poles are still in good shape. Now’s the time to make sure you still have all the tent stakes and guy lines as well. Before your first camping adventure is the perfect time to apply seam-seal (if recommended by the tent manufacturer) and repair any rips in the walls or floor. Don’t forget to check the rain fly!

Tents

tent

 

Other gear: go over your camping checklists to make sure that all your favorite camping gear is still in working order.

If you discover anything broken, you can repair it yourself, find a professional repair service, or set about replacing it. And it’s better to do that while it’s still a bit cold and windy rather than when you’re heading out for your first camping adventure of 2011!

To make your life easier, I included a link after every category to Amazon.com. I’m more and more impressed with that company and use it to get a LOT of my gear! Those are affiliate links, FYI.

 

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you fix your gear in the fall or spring?
  • If you had a tear in a sleeping bag or tent, do you fix it or buy a new one?
  • What’s you must-do activity before heading out for the first camping trip of the season?

Pitch Your Tent: Fire Starters

Egg Carton Fire Starters

Since I was camping last weekend, I wanted to take advantage of the trip to test out a homemade fire starter. Back in May, I wrote an article called 5 Campfire Starting Tools

Fire

In researching starting a campfire I had run across many different tips and techniques. But, I wanted to try the Egg Carton Fire Starter tip submitted by Par:

I take dryer lint and push it into the cups of a cardboard egg carton. Then I melt wax and pour it over the entire egg carton, trying to soak it as much as possible. I use one cup per fire. I usually have successful fires with this type of starter. Please do not use Styrofoam for this project, it melts and gives off noxious fumes.

So I gave it a shot!

Materials Needed:

  • Dryer lint
  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Unscented candle
  • Matches

Egg Carton

Dryer LintI’d been saving my dryer lint just to try this (gross, I know!) and a cardboard egg carton. I filled each of the holes with as much lint as it would hold. It was basically one load’s worth of lint per egg holder.

Egg cups with lint

Then, I lit my candle and waited until I had a pool of wax. I then poured the wax from the candle over the lint. I was trying to form a seal over the lint and soak as much wax as possible into the cardboard.

Egg cups with wax

The big white globs in the photo? That was cooled drips and puddles of wax I heated over the flame and then pressed into the lint.

I know what you’re thinking: this would have been a lot easier with a block of paraffin and a double boiler. And you’re absolutely correct except for a couple of things: I don’t own a double boiler (or a pot I could sacrifice for the name of a blog post!) AND I’m flat-out dangerous when it comes to open flames and wax! So I figured that the candle would be safer for me. Feel free to use a double boiler if you’re making a large batch of these starters.

It took me about 3 hours from start to finish. Most of the time was waiting for enough liquid wax to accumulate on my candle to then pour over the lint. After fussing with it all evening, I was wholeheartedly ready to report that this wasn’t worth it.

But I was wrong about that!

When I got to test this out on Saturday night, I made a little teepee with my wood and set a single fire starter in the middle. Now, as you can see from the photo at the top of this article, my wood was NOT kindling. It wasn’t even small!

I just lit the edges of the egg carton fire starter with my utility fire lighter and that was it. There was no newspaper, pine needles, grass, or twigs. Just one little fire starter and go.

One part I really liked about making these fire starters was that it really didn’t take a lot of wax for each egg cup. I wasn’t trying to form a solid block of wax over the lint, just enough to hold it in place. As soon as the wax was cool (about 10 minutes after the last pour) I broke the egg carton apart with my fingers and put the 6 cups I made into a zippered baggie.

The cardboard egg carton fire starters are basically free and pretty easy to make. The only thing that isn’t so cool about these is that they aren’t very water proof.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your favorite homemade fire starter?
  • Have you ever made egg carton fire starters? How did they work? What did you use to fill the egg cups?

Mystery Mondays: Camping at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

If there’s one thing I LOVE about my job at EatStayPlay.com, it’s getting to participate in all the fun outdoor recreation adventures. This past weekend I got to camp (in a tent in November!), kayak (with otters), geocache, hike, and fish. All at Dead Horse Ranch State Park near Cottonwood, Arizona.

Now, the interesting thing about this state park is that it’s just barely out of town but feels like its miles away from anywhere. As you can see from the campground, there isn’t a lot of shade and you’re pretty close to your neighbors. BUT, what it lacks in charm, the park more than makes up for in amenities.

Dead Horse Campground

This was CodeWolf’s first camping trip with the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family. And his second introduction to camping period, so I wanted to take him someplace that wasn’t too rustic. The RV had power and water hookups (but we were in a tent!) There were flush toilets and hot showers (which didn’t actually HAVE any hot water!) And, we only had to make two trips to Walmart for supplies.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to fish at one of the park’s two lagoons. They’re fed from the Verde River and stocked with catfish, bass, bluegill, and trout. The secret gotta-have-it-bait? Nightcrawlers!

catfish and bass

I was the big fishing “winner” catching a bass, catfish, and bluegill.

I also learned some things on this trip that I’d never realized before.

  1. Otters are cool to watch but ruin the fishing.Otter
  2. I never met a sign I didn’t want to take a photo of!Fish Sign
  3. It is possible to stand ON a geocache and not realize it.CodeWolf standing on a geocache
  4. I might think I look funny in my big hat but it’s nothing compared to how I look in a beanie!Kim in hat
  5. Most people are completely oblivious to deer standing RIGHT OFF THE TRAILDeer

Keep an eye on this week’s blog posts for more insights, tips, and tricks I learned from the trip! And, if you want to read more of my camping wisdom, check out the article Mystery Mondays: 31 Things I Learned

Pitch Your Tent: Tent Tips

Ground Cloths

When ESP Boss was doing research for our new back-packing tent, he read a lot of online reviews. On of the things that the reviewers said that made a huge impact on him was to buy the matching footprint (or ground cloth) for our tent.

And boy was I ever glad he did!

Now, when you’re buying a tent, you want to get a tent that has a waterproof floor. But even WITH a waterproof floor, you should use a ground cloth beneath your tent. (You should always use a ground cloth beneath the tent, no matter when or where you go camping!)

The ground cloth serves two purposes: it protects the floor of your tent from getting torn by rocks and debris below the tent, and the second purpose is to keep moisture from seeping up from the ground into your tent.

Ground Cloth Tips

If you DON’T have a waterproof tent floor:

  • Get a ground cloth that is the same size or a few inches smaller than your tent floor. That way, rain water won’t get between the two layers as easily.
  • Purchase a ground cloth that’s made for your tent’s size. If you can’t cut one to size from an old tarp.
  • It the ground cloth is too large, fold the edges UNDER to make it smaller. You want to fold the edges under or else rain will puddle under the tent floor.
Backpacking Tent

You can't SEE the ground cloth, but trust me: It's there!

The ground cloth for our backpacking tent is exactly the same size as the tent. Both the tent floor and the ground cloth are waterproof.

If you DO have a waterproof tent floor:

  • Consider using a tarp that extends out in front of the tent door a few feet. That makes it a perfect “porch” for your tent where you can take off your shoes.
  • Use a ground cloth that will allow water to pass through it. That way, the water won’t puddle under the tent!
Ground Cloth Car Camping Tent

See my shoes in the corner? There's plenty of room for me to take them off outside so I don't bring extra dirt into the tent!

But, for my car-camping tent, I personally prefer a larger, non-waterproof ground cloth. I like it because it traps the cushions the tent floor from pokey things, it allows water to run through and away, and because I have about three feet of ground cloth extending out from the main zippered door.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What’s your take on ground cloths? Do you like them the same size as the tent or larger than the tent?
  • Have you ever been camping without a ground cloth and wished you had one?

Pitch Your Tent: Camp Setup

Camp Setup Order of Priorities

Remember how last week I said that we weren’t expecting rain for our Black Canyon kayaking trip until Monday afternoon? Yeah, well the rain showed up early!

But, thankfully, ESP Boss is a super-duper camp-setter-upper. And, he doesn’t listen to his daughter when she’s saying (over and over)

“Pops! I’m SOOOOO hungry. You never feed me!”

When we finally found a reasonable beach, the very first thing we did was to set up the tent. As you can see, the beach was far from level and that was the ONLY spot that we felt was far enough away from the river AND was big enough to pitch the tent.

Camp Composite

Our tent is a back-packing tent and the rain fly is optional; you don’t have to put it on the tent to keep the bugs out. It was hot and muggy so I didn’t really WANT to put it on, but the clouds kept building and I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.

Did I mention ESP Boss is an EXTRA super-duper camp-setter-upper?

By the time the tent was fully set up WITH the rain fly secured, and loaded with all our stuff, it was drizzling. By the time we were done with dinner. It was raining. By the time the dishes were put away and the kayaks unloaded it was POURING.

I don’t have any photos of the storm but let’s just say the rain was coming down in sheets. We developed a waterfall on the west side of camp and the gully we were camped next to started running.

We sat out as long as we could with a rain poncho over our knees and wearing our rain gear. But watching the rain when the rain is also dripping off your nose just isn’t as much fun as watching it through a window!

But us? We were able to crawl into a warm, dry tent!

Moral of the story?

Set up the tent FIRST! Load it with your sleeping stuff, even if you don’t roll out the sleeping bags. Then have dinner.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have any tips for setting up camp?
  • What do you always do first?

Pitch Your Tent: Tent Tips

Water Ditches

In looking at the weather forecast for next weekend, it looks like we MIGHT catch some rain on Monday, towards the end of the kayaking trip. The weather isn’t enough to make us cancel the trip, but there are some precautions that we’ll be taking to make sure rain doesn’t ruin the trip!

water ditches tent

This tent CLEARLY has an uphill side!

We’ll be taking a small shovel along for, ahem, waste removal purposes. But, it will do double duty if we feel we need to dig a water ditch. Digging a small ditch for the water to run away from the tent is a good idea, but heed this story!

My good friend Resa told me this story about the first camping trip she and her husband, John, took just after they were married. They knew that they should dig around their tent so moisture (in this case, a light drizzle) would run away from the tent. So, they dug around their tent and then left for a day of hiking and fishing. When they returned, they realized that they had made a moat around their tent and had flooded the bottom of the tent!

Moral of the story: if you’re pitching your tent on a slope and are going to alter the way water will flow, make sure that you start UPHILL and dig channels to send the water DOWNHILL and away from the tent. DO NOT create a ditch around the tent! If you’ll be pitching your tent on level ground, note that it isn’t usually 100% level. Use that as the “uphill” for your ditch. When you leave the area, you need to fill in your ditches! Not only do you want to leave a neat tent pad (in a campground) for other campers, but it’s also of the Leave No Trace principles.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your tips for camping in less than sunny weather?
  • Do you have any funny (or not so funny) stories to share about camping in the rain?

Pitch Your Tent: Tent Trailers

Top 10 Tent Trailer Tips

I was at a party last week when the subject of buying a new tent trailer came up. My friend had said she’d seen a nice-looking used tent trailer for sale and was considering buying it. The EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family camped in a tent trailer, otherwise known as a pop-up trailer for many years.

Tent Trailer

(Until The Queen Mother decided it was too much work and made ESP Boss buy her a different RV. But that’s another story!)

Throughout our years of owning a tent trailer, we actually went through three different models. Since we’re something of an old hat at buying tent trailers, I wanted to share with you my top 10 tips; all from personal experience!

The salesman or previous owner will make it seem like a piece of cake to set up and tear down your new trailer. And it is; for THEM. For you, it is a brand new process.

And, of course, it goes without saying that before you buy an RV of ANY type, you make sure that your vehicle can tow it safely AND that you have the needed hitches, receivers, brakes, and connections!

  1. Take notes. It’s better if you have one person taking the notes and the other person following the seller around
  2. Draw pictures or take pictures. It’s amazing how little things like not pushing a bed in from the right angle mean that the bed won’t slide in at all! (Our Coleman tent trailer had a very finicky door. If it wasn’t done exactly right, it wouldn’t latch into the ceiling!)
  3. Have the seller do a complete set up and tear down for you to watch. Make notes of any steps they have trouble with, especially if you’re getting a used model from a prior owner. It might indicate that the part is due to be replaced, doesn’t want to work when wet (or dirty, or dusty, or on Thursdays…), or that the current owner didn’t use the feature much and isn’t familiar with it.
  4. YOU do it. Yes, you will look a bit foolish since you don’t really know what you’re doing, but it’s a lot better to practice when you’ve got the “expert” there to help you out. Plus, you’ll get a feel, right away, for how much work it is to do. You might change your mind at this point and decide that a tent trailer isn’t for you! (The previous owners of our Coleman tent trailer bought a top-of-the-line model with ALL the extras, took it out once and decided that it was too much work! My folks got a great deal, but think of all the money they spent on an RV that didn’t fit their lifestyle.)
  5. Take it home and then practice it again.
  6. Use EatStayPlay.com to schedule a test trip. You’re looking for a near-by campground that is easy to get to, has BIG level spaces, and is close to a major town so you can buy supplies, if you need them. This test run is just a test run — GO to a campground even if you prefer dispersed camping. Leveling the trailer on a nearly-level pad will make a big difference on your maiden voyage!
  7. Get to the campground when there is plenty of daylight left. There’s nothing worse than setting up an RV you’re not 100% familiar with in the dark!
  8. While you’re out, try out and test all the features of the tent trailer including the refrigerator, stove, toilet, inside and outside shower, lights, propane system, heating system, etc. If something doesn’t work, you need to get it fixed right away AND let the seller know about it! Going out with your new tent trailer is especially important if it is still under warranty.
  9. Make a folder with all the manuals in it and keep it in the trailer. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to reference the owner’s manual while on a trip. Luckily The Queen Mother is very good about keeping all that stuff handy.
  10. Be patient! Be patient with yourself, your spouse, your children and pets. Camping should be fun. Don’t expect everything on your maiden voyage to go well.

Our first trip with our first tent trailer: The “moon” feet didn’t reach the ground so we couldn’t level the trailer and had to drive into town for wooden blocks. The hot water heater wouldn’t stay lit (pilot light gizmo needed to be replaced!) And, it snowed! Thankfully, the heater DID work.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you do before buying an RV?
  • Have you ever taken your RV out thinking it was going to be simple and had a disaster instead?

Pitch Your Tent: Trip Planning

Camping Trip Planning From The Ground Up

I’ve published several articles about checking your gear after you get home from a camping trip. But ESP Boss & I have a trip planned for October 16-17 that made me realize there’s a whole OTHER dimension to planning a trip:

Pre-Planning!

For our trip, ESP Boss & I will be kayaking the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to Willow beach. Now, that can be done as a day trip, but we’ll be doing it as an overnighter. Packing for an overnight kayaking trip is a lot like packing for a backpacking trip. Since I’ve never been backpacking (it’s on my list of things to do!) I’m pretty much a newbie to it all.

Hoover Dam

We'll be going south of the river towards Willow Beach.

I figure I’ve been camping all my life but I’ve never backpacked or done an overnight kayaking trip. This means that YOU get a really interesting experience where I can write some articles from the window of a beginner:

ME

Here is what I’ve learned so far: (and I think most of this will apply to all beginners going on a first camping trip)

Do Research About Where To Go.

ESP Boss knew that we could kayak the Colorado River but he did some serious research about which stretches of the river are the best. We were looking for something really specific: steady current, not too rapid, not too much boat traffic but not too remote either. Turns out, the section that we’ll be doing is motor-prohibited on Sundays and Mondays. Perfect for our trip!

In case you didn’t realize it, my website EatStayPlay.com has GREAT information about public camping areas. It covers all the western states and is free.

Find Out If You Need Any Special Permits or Permissions.

There are actually a lot of areas across the USA that require a special access permit. Often times if you’re going to a Wilderness area you’ll need to get a permit to be there. When the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family attended a big geocaching event/campout last March there was a special permit we needed to get.

The Outdoor Princess & ESP Boss at Blue Ridge Reservoir

We'll need a special permit to kayak the river.

Most of the time, special permits aren’t expensive or hard to get. But what IS expensive is getting fined for NOT having a permit. Call the governing body of where you’re planning on going and ask if am access or use permit is required. I recommend CALLING as opposed to looking on line since sometimes the permit requirements aren’t clearly published.

Decide If You Need Special Gear.

If you’re camping in a campground, chances are good that you can make your gear list as easy as falling off a log. Place to stay? Check! Way to cook? Check! Sleeping bag? Check! Food? Check!

But for this trip, we needed some gear for above and beyond: a water filtration system.

The need for specialized gear can be really daunting for a lot of beginners. But don’t let anything get in the way of having a great outdoor adventure! I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about this topic in this post; it needs more than a paragraph or two. Just keep it in mind and then check back next week for my thoughts on it.

Create A Budget.

Yes, camping can be a “cheap” vacation. But sometimes I think that’s only in comparison to, say, a week at Disneyland! You’ll need to have a budget for gear, fees, gas, and food. Once you know where you’re going and if you need a permit or gear, then a budget will help you decide if you can actually take THIS trip or if you need to re-think your plans.

Trust me, it’s better to think about the money-side of adventures before you’re committed to a trip that gets more expensive by the minute.

Buy The Gear. Test It Out.

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, right? Or a pair of shoes without trying them on and walking around the store either. So why people go straight from the store to the campsite is beyond me!

Before you head to the woods (or in this case, the river) test out the stove. Make sure all the parts work and you know how to use it. Open the sleeping bag and lay it out. Does the zipper work? Are all the seams intact?

Tent

For the geocaching event in March, we broke a cardinal rule! We didn't set the tent up until we got to camp. We were really lucky and all the tent pieces were in the box!

And the big one: Set up the tent! Partly so you know how to do it, but also because if you’re missing a part, if the tent wall is torn, or if a pole is broken, etc, you can fix it BEFORE you head out.

I wish I had a picture, but last week, I set up our backpacking tent INSIDE the house! It was crammed into the spare room at my folk’s and looked completely ridiculous. But, I figured out how everything went together AND I made sure that it all worked. ESP Boss will be testing our new backpacking stove this weekend.

Make Some Lists.

Anybody who regularly reads my articles knows I’m really big on checklists. Just because you might not have a ready-to-print checklist doesn’t mean you can’t make lists of your own!

Good list topics are:

  • Food
  • General “big” gear (stove, tent, sleeping bags)
  • Specific “little” gear (camera, GPS, flashlight)
  • Clothing (be specific!)
  • Medicines/Toiletries
  • Maps and manuals

When I’m making lists, I start with generalities to brainstorm what I’m thinking of (like the list above) and then I make a specific list for each topic. Trust me, after one packing list that said “Toiletries” and then a trip where I didn’t bring my allergy medicine, toothbrush, or bug spray I go ahead and get specific!

Readers Weigh In:

  • If you were giving advice to a person who was planning their very first camping trip, what would you tell them?
  • What pre-planning steps do YOU do?
  • What are your must-do steps to get ready for a camping trip?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Amazon.com Affiliate Link
Let Kim Help You Publish Your eBook
On The Beach Publishing
Share |
Royalty Free Images