The ten of camping

A rock can do the job, but a hammer will do it better.

The title does not contain a typo. If you want to read about the Zen of camping, you’ll find 2,540 listings in a Google search. I don’t pretend to know anything about Eastern philosophies, so I’ll just write ten things I’ve learned about tent camping (not backpacking).

1. Make a list and take everything you need. A hammer, for instance, and a screwdriver. Sure, you can pound a tent peg into the ground with a rock, assuming you can find a rock, but using a hammer is much easier. The screwdriver is for preparing a hole for the peg. That way you’ll end up with fewer ruined pegs.

2. Less is more (think nomad). Don’t take anything more than you need. The extra soup ladle and serving spoons that somehow got mixed in with our kitchen camping gear, and the dull knives left over from previous trips, were in the way each time we had to pack up. So were the many extra changes of clothing.

3. RTFM. Your new tent will go up faster if you read the manual and follow the instructions. I promise. But you will never be able to fold it as neatly as it was when it came out of the box; don’t even bother trying.

4. An air mattress is not a luxury. It will let you sleep better and enjoy the day more, especially if you’re over 18. And a groundcover (just a plastic dropcloth will do), even in a place where it looks as though it hasn’t rained for months, will keep the inevitable moisture out.

5. If you really want to be in nature, seek out less-visited campgrounds. National forest campgrounds are often less crowded and are cheaper.

6. Nobody dies from not taking a shower and not changing clothes every day. National park and national forest campgrounds usually don’t have showers. A washrag and some heated water will do in a pinch. And vaulted toilets (the new pit toilets) are not stinky.

7. Don’t skimp on ice, keep your ice chest out of the sun, and add extra insulation by covering the chest by day with a sleeping bag.

8. If you’re in a national park, take advantage of the ranger talks and guided walks. You’ll remember them for years to come.

9. The campground you had your heart set on was full? Move on to the next one. It may be even nicer than the one you thought you wanted.

10. Once your tent and bedding are set up, you have a new home and are free to look around, walk around, hike around, talk to your neighbors, count the stars. Slow down and open your heart to a whole new world of experiences.

Text and photo copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photo may be used without written permission of the author.

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