There are a few different kinds of camping. There’s the kind where you prep the RV, make the drive to a campground, and the hook up to the conveniences of electricity and water. There are those pack-in hiking and camping trips – we’re not sure what to call those other than extreme. Somewhere in between – we like to think it’s a happy medium – is good old-fashioned camping where you pitch a tent and cook over an open fire. If you’ve never camped this way before, it can be great fun for the whole family. Perhaps this is the summer to give it a go? Here are a few things to consider before you pack the car.
The most important contributor to the fun factor is people; you’ll want to have the right people around the campfire. Family, friends, neighbors – they’re all welcome assuming you enjoy their company and they don’t mind getting a little dirty. (Choose people who won’t mind using an outhouse and campground shower house.) People who make you laugh and have good stories to tell are perfect candidates for your camping trip. Pets are part of the family too, so be sure to check that the campground allows dogs – most do if they are on a leash.
There are some basic necessities that you’ll need to make the most of your trip. A camper or tent are obvious, as are food (more on that below) and cooking supplies. Critical but perhaps less obvious are toilet paper – stored in a re-sealable bag or coffee can. Be sure to pack matches or a lighter and, if you’re the impatient type, lighter fluid. If you’re going to a remote or rustic camping area, you may also need a hatchet for chopping wood if locally sourced wood isn’t available for purchase near your campsite. (Note that in an effort to curb the spread of tree diseases and insects toxic to trees, many states and camping areas prohibit bringing your own wood.) You’ll also want to bring lawn chairs for gathering around the fire and swapping stories – and don’t forget the bug spray!
Campfires will keep most everyone mesmerized after the sun goes down. What you do during the day? That depends on your campground and your intensity level, but there are plenty of options: fishing or hiking, reading a book, taking a swim in the lake with the kids. You can also pack portable yard games, like Frisbee, bocce ball, or bean bag toss. Whatever you do, leave the devices behind. No video games allowed!
Food is a big part of a camping trip – both eating and preparing. A few of our favorite classic camping foods include hamburgers, steaks, chicken, fish, potatoes and sweet corn, because they’re quick and easy, but you can also prepare just about anything over a campfire, including eggs, pancakes, canned foods, etc. (Just be sure to coat the outside of the pans in dish soap before putting them over the fire.)
You can also get a little more adventurous with a cast iron Dutch oven made for camp cooking. These beauties let you “bake” food by setting the pot directly in the fire coals, on a cooking grate or suspended from a cooking tripod. Imagine how good slow-cooked beef stew or apple crisp will taste when you’re camping! Also, don’t forget to pack graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars – a camping trip just isn’t the same without tasty s’mores.
Whether around your Heatilator fireplace at home or an outdoor campfire, enjoy the fire!