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Camping tips and tricks

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For over 30 years my family has been making annual trips to Vermont to go camping in the late Fall.  Over the years it has grown from being just four of us (my Mom, Dad, Sister, and me) to over a dozen people, family and close friends. 

I know a lot of people on instructables are into backpack camping, so they have to be careful about the weight of what they are bringing since they have to carry it in and out. 

Odds are these tips won't be of much help to you. 

Our annual trip is by no means considered lightweight.  But we bring the things that make the camping trip fun and comfortable.



*8/20/2011*
updates to step 3 and step 4
added step 7

*8/21/2011*
update to step 4

*8/24/2011*
update to step 4

*9/3/2011*
added a link to the recipe for Mom's Beef Stew in step 4
 
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Step 1: Lean-to Tarp

The state park has really nice Lean-to sites available.  A Lean-to is really nice for getting you up off the ground and providing protection from the elements.  The only down side is that the entire front side is open to the elements.

For years we would nail a tarp up to the front of the lean to using the grommets on the tarp.  If it was nice out we would string the tarp out to make an awning over the picnic table (we would move the table over to in front of the lean-to).

If the weather got really nasty, or if we were turning in for the night, we would drop the tarp down to cover the front of the lean to.  The tarp helps to retain heat, as well as keeping out any nasty weather.

A few years ago we picked up a 10' square pop up tent.  Since We started using that over the table, we have not needed to use the tarp as an awning.

In order to make it easier to get in an out of the lean-to during the day I came up with a new way of setting up the tarp.

By stringing a length of rope across the front of the lean-to and inserting shower curtain rings into each of the grommets in the tarp.  It makes it very easy to slide the tarp off to one side during the day so it is out of the way, and then slide it back into place at night.
Another cheap fire starter is to use pine cones, send the kids out to find them, then store in a plastic bag. Use two or three along with some screwed up newspaper under your kindling... the only thing your paying for then are the matches.
never use pinecones in a open pit of any kind, even if they are dry. They pop and create embers. I used to ignore this rule until I saw a rather larger ember pop and fly off over our heads and onto the ground. The ground began to smoke. Nothing bad came from it, but from then on I no longer use them. This isn't just me, it's part of camping guides.
Lorddrake (author)  medievalpirate2 years ago
never tried pine cones before. guess we have a new experiment for this years camping trip :)
we use pinecones dipped in wax to start our fireplace.
Lorddrake (author)  Galonii1 year ago
how long will a wax dipped cone burn for?
No problem, may have to share a recipe or two with you guys. They are full blown camp cooking, none of this starting it at home and then reheating onsite...
Lorddrake (author)  medievalpirate2 years ago
sounds good. I will have to post some new camp cooking recipes too.
Professor_How3 months ago
Lots of great ideas, obviously born from experience. :)
Lorddrake (author)  Professor_How3 months ago
Thank you, many happy years of experiences :)
Thank you.
Bob Capri10 months ago
Easy Meals
Where were you staying?
Lorddrake (author)  Bob Capri10 months ago
The photos of the campground that are posted in this IBLE are from Emerald Lake State Park in Vermont
Lorddrake (author)  miafort1 year ago
glad I could help. have a safe and happy camping trip.
Ugifer1 year ago
You trick of cooling down the cooler is interesting - when we used to go away, my mother had one cooler of just frozen stuff. She would pack it the night before and put the whole cooler, with the lid off, in the freezer! That way, everything, including the cooler is at -20'C when you start out!
colectron1 year ago
firestarters...dryer lint should be cotton...poly does'nt work well...Also corn chips such as fritos works well...any greasy chips ...thanks fot tips....
Lorddrake (author)  colectron1 year ago
corn chips make great firestarters, each one will burn for almost a minute. and that is just the regular sized ones, I will have to get a bag of the scoops fritos to test burn time.
lucek1 year ago
One I do is if I'm going to have a tarp for exstra some rain shelter (which I do when ever I can) I use the rope from that as a close line. Might as well. You already have it strung up.
LstTxn21 year ago
All great camping tips. Like you we car camp - more like truck camp, but if we want it, it's there.
Some of our favorite items are our cast iron cookware. We use them at almost every meal. I have posted a couple of our recipes.

One for cooking a roast in the ground (in a dutch oven)

and one for easy to make peach cobbler in a dutch oven

I am going to be using your mother's stew recipe ... thanks for the tips and look forward to many more.
I have an awesome book on camping recipies. I am in girl scouts and I think you could get it from a local girl scout store.(trust me, they do exist) or you could probably find it on amazon or something.Its called cooking on a stick.
tim_n1 year ago
Many thanks for the link and compliments :)
Lorddrake (author)  tim_n1 year ago
not a problem. I'm glad you had the instructable made .. it saved me from having to type out all that info hehe.

making campfire twists is one of the highlights of the evening for the kids (and most of the adults too)
sconner11 year ago
I used rinsed out box wine bags for water.
They collapse and take less space as they get used up Plus have a dispenser cap already built in.
Lorddrake (author)  sconner11 year ago
I didn't know that you could refill the bags that come in the wine boxes. are they difficult to open up?
Take the bag out and the dispenser cap either unscrews or pops off with a flat screwdriver. I forget which, it's been a while. There may be brands where there's no cap or it doesn't come off. Look around.
sconner11 year ago
Dryer lint and a flint/steel is all you need.

Or steel wool and a 9V battery can be fun.

Newspaper, rolled into a rod, tied with bits of twine, cut to 1-2" lengths and dipped in paraffin wax will light even slightly damp kindling.
leonal2 years ago
Bears have been known to break windows or rip doors off hinges. If you're in bear country, use bear boxes if available or string your stuff up in a tree if not. Most cars prevent very little challenge to a motivated bear.
Lorddrake (author)  leonal2 years ago
interesting. I never heard of a bear box before. I did a quick search and found a webpage on REI's website (outdoor apparel company) talking about bear boxes and why you should use them.

http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/bear+resistant+canisters.html

apparently stringing your food up in a tree is not a foolproof method of keeping it safe any more (tricksy bears) .. but something is better than nothing.

I knew food would attract animals but I was unaware that they are also attracted to such things as soaps, detergents, cans of soda, and pans used for cooking.

Thankfully we have not had to deal with bears where we go, but I can not stress enough that it pays to plan ahead and know about the area you plan on going camping at.

camp safe everyone.
solution number #2. get a gun license and a gun XD. just kidding. Now that bears have been mentioned I wont ever feel safe in the forests.....
In the south, Bears aren't to big of a problem. Camp bears (raccoon) can figure out about anything you do to hide food. Check out BSA Scouts sites for ideas.
youbaka12 years ago
hey is that on long island that campsite i think i recognize it
Lorddrake (author)  youbaka12 years ago
no it isn't. all the campsite shots are from Emerald Lake State Park in Vermont.
Knowing knots can help make those last-minute improvisations possible.

The ones which anyone who goes camping should know:
Taut-Line Hitch:  A slip knot that stays in place until you adjust it
Square Knot:  Good for securing items, but tension on the wrong pair of ends will turn it into a double-half hitch
Trucker's Hitch:  Good for when you need a really tight line.  Basically a pulley system.  According to the linked website, it offers a ~1.6:1 mechanical advantage after friction is taken into account.

Not as necessary, but still useful:
Square lashing and clove hitches can be used to improvise many implements for around the camp (although round lashing can be used for making a tripod).

My personal fire starter is birch bark.  It's quite common where I go camping, so I don't even have to remember to pack anything special.
I also seem to remember reading a few instructables about fire starters a while back.  Many of them seem to use some combination of dryer lint, wood chips, and wax to make something that lights easily, lasts long, and lights damp.



Lorddrake (author)  killersquirel112 years ago
great list of essential knots, although i am suprised you didn't list the bowline knot (granted it is part of the truckers hitch, but it is an important knot in and of itself)

thanks for the great comment.
I listed the knots that I tend to use. I don't know why, but I've never really used the bowline.

I also do the trucker's hitch a bit different than anywhere I've found online. The starter knot is a simple slip knot, and I finish it off with a few half hitches. As long as you are careful to make the free end be the one that controls the size of the loop, you gain a bit more mechanical advantage. Granted the trucker's hitch already tends to be good enough to snap some flavors of twine....

One other thing that I forgot is a good way to store rope. Something like this: (It's called a butterfly coil in case youtube decides to be stupid)

That's awesome, Thanks!
AllenInks2 years ago
Re: fire starters: Have you tried cotton balls soaked in Petroleum Jelly ( such as Vasoline brand)? Put one on a small bit of tinfoil, and light it. It burns for several minutes, and is nearly windproof. The tin foil reflects heat, but more importantly, retains the petroleum jelly after it melts into oil, so the cotton fibers act as a wick for the oil, like a candle, so it burs much longer.

you can carry several with bits if tin foil in a leak-proof container, such as a waterproof containersold to hold matches for camping. load each cotton ball, presoaked in petroleum jelly, with an individual patch of tinfoil, say 2.5 inches in diameter, in the middle of a respective u-shaped bit of string, so that each cotton ball and folded tin foil base can be retrieved by pulling the ends of the associated length of sting. all the string ends are kept near the mouth of the container as you pack in the balls.
About firestarters; I have noticed that a lot of contributers from the US seem to be relying on them. I am a bit surprised as a bit of woodcraft would suffice.

In my scout corps we teach the scouts from age 10 and up to make fires without firestarters in normal conditions. (Normal would mean temperatures from -15 to +30 degrees Celsius, from sunshine to light rain and not too much wind, probably less than 6 m/s, when they can do this and from about age 13 we challange them with more severe weather conditions)

They get a small axe, a knife and 3 matches for the firestarting to get the merit badge. Of course there is some other requisites for getting the badge, like knowing where to find kindling and wood, types of wood and their qualities and a number of types of fires for different uses. We have seen that after they learn this they take pride in knowing how to make a fire and doesn't need any firestarters.

What will you do if you use up your firestarters? What if you loose them? When you don't practice your skills you'll loose them too. :-)

Keep camping and start your fires "naturally".

Happy trails, Jim
Lorddrake (author)  jimbru2 years ago
Thanks for the input Jim.

Counting on a fire starter as your sole method of making a fire can definitely have its drawbacks.

Knowing how to make a fire several different ways, but using a fire starter because it is easier is a different story.

I agree with you that if you don't keep practicing your skills you will have problems when you are in a situation that you need them. That is why I make sure to practice making a "one match fire" at least once each camping trip.

Next year's camping trip I will start teaching my oldest how to build and light a fire properly, and as the little ones get older they will learn too.

You can never have too many practical skills in your repertoire.
just to add that cheap note... my first time camping, my dad did buy a firelog, we cut it into eight pieces, ziploc baggied them and ta-da... really inexpensive fire starters ( i think my dad didn't believe i could actually start a fire ?!?!) also, newspaper wadded loosely works well.
Lorddrake (author)  AllenInks2 years ago
that is a really good idea .. I will have to try that. Thanks.
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