Over the Memorial Day Weekend, my wife and I decided to go on an overnight camping trip with a few friends. Now, I enjoy the whole camping with the minimal things, the wife not so much. Because of this, our trip almost became “glamping” rather than camping. Happy wife, happy life right? Here are some tips if you are going comfort camping whether or not you actually want to.
Whether your camping trip is going Grizzly Adams and carrying everything you need in, or you’re gonna do what we did and park your truck in the middle of the woods at a camp, this list will have you prepared.
Essentials for Camping
The essentials you need at camp are simple: fire, shelter, food, and water. You should bring at minimum a tent or hammock to sleep, fire starting supplies (such as a fire starter kit, or even just a lighter), enough food for the duration of your stay, as well as enough water. Pack enough clothes for the trip including some emergency items such as a hoodie, rain jacket, and beanie.
Be sure to bring along a sleeping bag as well. For you minimalist guys, it’s as easy as finding a lightweight mummy bag rated for a low temperature you think you could encounter. Remember though, just because its rated to 10 degrees doesn’t mean you will be WARM at 10 degrees. The low for our overnight camping trip was 40 degrees. And I picked a 10 degree rated sleeping bag and was perfectly comfortable the entire night. For you guys doing the borderline “glamping” thing, I used a Magellan over-sized sleeping bag which has plenty of room to stretch out.
I’d also bring along a hammock to relax in during the day. They are light, they are fun, and they can be comfortable even to sleep in. Find a hammock that comes with hanging straps or rope. You can get these pretty cheap at Walmart and they will do exactly what you want them to. You can even find some that are lined with memory foam for extra comfort.
A Man’s Gotta Eat
Don’t forget to bring cooking supplies. Essentially, all you need is a grill top you can throw over a fire along with a fork, knife, and spatula. You can get all of these items cheap at Walmart, or you can put out a bit of extra change and shop at Cabela’s or Bass Pro. If you like coffee, I recommend bringing along a couple of cups and a coffee percolator. I just got started with them using Cabela’s cool-touch 12-cup percolator, and its way better than using instant coffee and water. Want to go smaller? Get a Jetboil.
For food and water storage, bring along a cooler as well. If you’ve read any of my articles where I recommend coolers, you already know which one to pick. I have a Bison Coolers Gen One 25-quart cooler and it is the perfect size for an overnight camping trip. My buddy also brought the Bison Coolers Gen One 175-quart cooler which fit all of the group’s food and extra drinks. I’d recommend getting the 50-quart cooler from Bison, especially since they just released all the Gen 2 models. You will have plenty of space for ice, food, drink, and you won’t need to lug around anything too heavy.
Picking Out a Camp
If you’d rather find a spot in the woods to camp, but need to drive in because you packed half your home into the bed of your truck, here are a couple of tips to selecting a campsite. I generally look for three things: access, space, and canopy cover.
Access is important purely for the fact that you are driving in all of your gear. Unless you feel like making 4 or 5 hikes from campsite to truck to grab all the things you wanted for comfort, you need to be able to have an accessible trail to get your vehicle down. To be clear, I don’t mean an improved road. Take your 4×4 and do what its meant to do, find a trail and go off-road.
You’ll need enough space in the woods to set up your tent, your fire pit, and keep the truck somewhat close by. If you are going with multiple people, you need enough space between the trees to set up the tents. Finding a nice opening in the forest is good enough. Pick the spot that has a few trees to set up the hammock, with a nice opening to place your tent so you’re not sleeping on roots or stumps.
This is a two-way street. You want an area that provides enough canopy cover for shade during the day, with enough opening to make fires at night. Why does making a fire make a difference? Even though your fire might not be 40-feet high flames, embers still rise into the canopy because of heat. These embers can catch dry grass around your fire pit as well as catch dry portions of wood and leaves in the canopy line, which can cause forest fires (Smokey the Bear would be very disappointed). So to play it safe, pick out an area where you can chill in the shade, and do your part in preventing forest fires.
A pretty significant detail to include while camping is a tent. When it comes to important outdoor gear like this, I’m a firm believer in “you get what you pay for”. Yeah, I like to bargain shop when I can, but honestly, a lot of your Ozark Trail $25 tents aren’t going to hold up when they need to.
Now don’t go out and buy a $1,500 tent. It’s not like you’re dropping into the Yukon and staying out for 30 days in the winter. Look in the price range of $100-$200 for a tent, and pay attention to reviews. My wife and I settled on the Cabela’s four-person West Wind tent.
With a price tag online of $199, it’s the high-end of where my wallet was comfortable for a tent. It’s easy to set up and is big enough for three people comfortably. (Remember the tent size means that is how many people can fit in it, laying down, in sleeping bags, right next to each other.)
Another nice feature of the West Wind tent is the attached vestibule for storing gear. This dome tent is attached to a mudroom, so you can take off your dirty boots and store other gear inside of it you want it to be protected without dirtying the sleeping area. The rain fly and tent material are the same which offers extra protection against the rain.
If you are looking for something cheaper, the higher priced Ozark Trail and Coleman tents do good work as well. You can find these tents at your local Walmart or sporting goods store. Just remember you get what you pay for.
Camping doesn’t always have to be purely man vs. nature. Yeah sure, I prefer it that way. Why go minimalist if you don’t have to though? Drive it in, set up some comfort, and enjoy the outdoors. Besides, getting bit up by mosquitos is about as deep into outdoor immersion most people will go anyway. Regardless, it’s just about getting outside right?