By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Patrick F. McManus, the outdoor humorist, once offered the thought that camping is a fine and pleasant misery, but the right amount of advance planning and a careful eye on the weather can make most overnight expeditions anything but miserable.
Camping trips that are undertaken as a means to an end – whether to see and hike great natural vistas or to serve as home base for hunting or fishing efforts – are apt to include their own share of difficulties. That’s simply because they’re planned around our schedules rather than those of nature.
Camping trips that are executed just for the sake of spending the night outdoors, cooking over a fire, watching the stars and hearing the silence need not be so challenging.
To that end, here are a few items to consider to make your next camping trip, or your first, fun and enjoyable:
• Buy a tent that’s large enough to let your crew sleep comfortably, but small enough for you to assemble by yourself. Once you’ve bought it, practice putting it up a time or two before you set out to do it for real with people standing around waiting for you and with night closing in. Instructions become much harder to read and comprehend when complaints from the peanut gallery are playing in the background.
No substitute for a pillow
• Get a sleeping bag that’s warm enough, an air mattress or sleeping pad that’s cushioned enough, and an actual pillow. You can kick off part of the sleeping bag when it’s too warm, but there’s not much you can do but put on extra clothes and shiver when it’s too cold. Also, a wadded up pair of blue jeans or other similar expedient does not make a good pillow. A pillow makes a good pillow. Bring a pillow.
• Use a tarp on the ground underneath the tent, and bring an old door mat for the entrance, then always leave your shoes or boots just inside. The tent will be a lot more comfortable if you can walk around inside in socks or bare feet without stepping on who-knows-what.
• Consider getting a Coleman stove or propane burner for cooking. Besides a pillow to sleep on, good and plenty food is the best way to make sure the camping trip is a success.
• When it comes to food preparation, the more you can knock out in your kitchen at home and pack into Ziploc bags or plastic containers and haul in ice chests, the better. Soups made at home and frozen will serve two needs, helping keep other food cool in the ice chest until you use them. Pre-mixed dry ingredients planned for any dish are a bonus.
• Bring folding chairs for sitting around the campfire. The style common to football tailgating events are ideal.