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Camping newbie

2003-06-04 04:14:25.292151+00 by Pete 23 comments

I'm ignorant and need some help. I'm heading out for a lightweight camping weekend with a large group of people, all of whom have their gear, but I'm both a newbie and gearless and not interested in buying a ton of stuff I'll use at most two or three times a year.

No power, but no weight concerns (it sounds more like a "drive out in the country and drink" deal than anything else), and it'll be two nights and three days, with at least one tubing session.

I've got, uh, a flashlight (3D Mag) and that's about it. I need sleeping gear (it'll be warm, but possibly wet), food ideas (I don't eat meat), suggestions for water-resistant sunscreen and bug-repellent, and whatever else you think should be a priority for such a lightweight outing.

Medical stuff shouldn't be an issue since cars will be handy and civilization is not far away.

[ related topics: Food Beer Community red neck culture ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 04:35:14.987132+00 by: ebradway

Car camping? It's more fun in a VW Bus. I've got a full-size bed and screened windows!

Here's what you need: beer, sunblock, beer, a couple clean t-shirts, beer, a change of underware, beer, a big bag of trailmix, beer, some beer snacks, beer...

Try to arrange a few group meals. It's much easier to get one stove going and make lots of chili, eggs, etc. At bus campouts we usually have at least three big group meals. You might not need much insect repellant, especially if there is a camp fire. Do pack a small medical kit for yourself, including: aspirin/aceteminophen/ibuprofen (always a little of each - aspirin works great for sun burns, aceteminophen for headaches and ibuprofen for sore muscles - don't take any in excess). A few bandaids and cleaning wipes won't hurt.

Sleeping supplies: take your bed pillow, a sheet and an a blanket. If it's warm - sleep under the sheet and on the blanket, reverse if it's cold. Or go to Wally-world and drop $10 on the cheapest sleeping bag they have. A sleeping pad is nice, but a few more beers will eliminate the need. Bring layers of clothing - they provide more warmth.

Most important: bring plenty of beer and don't worry too much about the rest. Beer can act as a good substitute for just about any of the supplies. Beer can make the ground very comfortable. It can make curling up under a pile of leaves sound cool. It can ease a sunburn and relax sore muscles. I assume you'll have a fresh water source. Otherwise, bring as much water as beer (if not a little more water).

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 04:46:25.361838+00 by: Dan Lyke

With nods to the 'noogans in the group, Bullfrog sunscreen comes well recommended, but I just buy something cheap with a > 30SPF and reapply regularly. A hat with an all-around brim is a very good idea.

If you're planning on doing a lot of this, investing in a Therm-a-rest pad is a decision you won't later regret. The 3/4 length works fine for me and keeps the weight and space down, but that's less of a concern if you're car camping. Pad isn't really necessary if you're in the backcountry where the spots aren't trampled to rock hard, but if you're car camping you won't regret a little padding, even if it's just a cheap foam pad.

The most extreme backpacking I've done has been with a plastic drop-cloth and tarp for shelter, cloth underneath, tarp overhead, tied to tree. Cheap, light, sometimes takes some looking for good camp spots. I'm blanking on the name of my tent right now, but a decent (last you years) a-frame should cost a little over $100. Of course I was once happy to have a $30 "Camel" K-mart two-poster, 'cause it had no-see-um netting while the snazzier more expensive tent my parents were in didn't, but the lesson there is that if you're going back-country and expect your screen to save you, make sure you know how small the beasties are you're trying to keep out.

For car camping the Coleman propane stoves work fine for me. We picked up one of the nice two-burners for a few bucks at a garage sale that just needed a new regulator, I think the total cost was < $25, the one-burners are almost cheap enough to be disposable. The propane canisters are probably more expensive than white gas, but they're cheap enough that I don't worry too much. For backpacking, I like the MSR Whisperlite International[Wiki], but the priming step and the pump make it less convenient than "twist the knob and light it".

Sleeping-bag wise, especially for summer camping, I'm a fan of things big and square. I've got a Hollowfill II (state of the art when I got it) mummy bag which is great for backpacking, but sucks for zipping to someone else's or laying flat and using as a blanket. Big and square, maybe even cheap and flannel, doubles as a blanket. Sucks if you get it wet, but if you get it wet and you're car camping head for the nearest hotel. Trust me on this one, I've spent wet nights out.

And remember a pillow, and a sheet.

A good set of polypropylene long undies in the bottom of your pack can also be a lifesaver in a pinch, but we're straying away from cmaping and into survival.

Food: A couple of energy bars in the bottom of the pack make sure you'll always have something to eat. If you're cool with carbs rice and other grains don't spoil. Root vegetables (carrots, beets, etc) pack in the cooler well, with some beans or rice or other grains you can do soup and stew-ish sorts of veggie meals. Beware the cooler water! Keep that cooler draining. Of course for a few days just put whatever you want in the cooler, use the greens first. Remember enough water(!), a bunch of hand wipes (unscented baby wipes work well too), and utensils.

My experience has been that the more extreme the camping, the simpler the gear, to the point where the serious folks I've hung out with (winters are back-country cross-country skiing to check on snowed in cabins) advocate little more than a water bottle and a fanny pack, with polypro clothing for wet warmth, in the summer.

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 05:28:00.346971+00 by: Sam

if car camping, I have to say that I really like the tortillini at trader joes, also the maranara and pesto sauce in the boxes is really good. I like to freeze a bunch of water bottles and use them instead of ice. Reason is that it is really nice to drink ice cold water and all your food in a cooler doesn't get waterlogged. Recently I got some Vrute (I think that is what it was called at TJ's and it was really good in the mornings.

Get cheap sleeping bag at Walmart or somewhere like it and get a big tarp (I will often sleep on the picnik tables under the tarp that i put up 'to keep the meal area shaded'. If you do not want to spend on fancy matress get a big chunck of closed and open celled foam at fabric stores or at a place like popular sports Check out a local place that has military surplus the stuff is really tough and cheap.

bring a pair of flip flops for the campsite, low impact and so coool

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 06:39:19.935654+00 by: dws

Don't depend on facilities. Bring your own toilet paper.

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 16:12:59.758747+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yep, my suggestions are overkill, everyone else is giving better "first time out car camping" aid.

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 17:01:39.249389+00 by: Pete [edit history]

the working list so far:

bottled water
beer, beer, and maybe some beer
first aid kit
sleeping bag
folding chair
whatever looks good at Trader Joes
Bullfrog sunscreen
bug repelent
handy wipes
sleeping pad or air mattress
aqua shoes
big brim hat
tarp for the ground
plastic bags for trash

I knew this was going to be a pain to prepare for.

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 20:00:41.722561+00 by: Mars Saxman

...and this is why I never go car camping if I can help it. Backpacking is easy: you just figure out the minimum list of supplies you need to stay alive and happy, then throw away half of it and start walking. But camping - whew, the logistics are impossible. Coolers, chairs, pots and pans, utensils, cleaning supplies; a saw, an axe, a grill, air mattresses, and tons of beer. It's like going to Burning Man, only less fun!

#Comment made: 2003-06-04 22:51:38.591985+00 by: Pete [edit history]

...cheap sunglasses
spf lip balm

#Comment made: 2003-06-05 00:37:57.269172+00 by: topspin

I'd get into a tent with someone. It's likely you're going to N. Va. It's further likely you'll be close to the water. Sleeping under the stars is a wonderful thing, but the heat will likely make you open your bag at night and the 'squitos will dine on your booty. Even if you have to trade sexual favors or beer.... try to share a tent. (You might be able to lose the tarp this way.)

Load a film cannister with various spices and add some extra zing to some pretty bland package meals. Low weight, low space.... high satisfaction.

Take a real knife or if you have a multi-tool, take it. Again, a little item.... big return on investment. Yeah, someone else will probably have one, but you can just keep it your glove compartment and feel good about it.

Relax. Civilization obviously isn't too far off. Kick back with your buds and Buds...... and enjoy!

#Comment made: 2003-06-05 03:22:56.186239+00 by: Shawn

Looks like a good list Pete. I have trouble putting myself in the proper mindset as my parents looked down on "sissy" car camping all my life. Backpacking only until I was out of the house.

Dan, Whisperlite's and Thermarests rock! For sleeping wet: Get out of your clothes and wrap them in your raingear for the night. Then curl up in your holo/poly-fill bag and try not to scare the bullfrog that keeps coming to examine your head. Wake up in the morning and put on dry clothes :-)

#Comment made: 2003-06-05 05:18:42.001048+00 by: Dan Lyke

Shawn, the best way I ever found to sleep wet was to have enough polypro that I knew I wasn't going to go hypothermic, and drink a shitload of tequila. Of course I didn't know I was drinking that much, I just knew someone made me a kickass margarita, but... well...

Despite that much alcohol, and it being cold and wet in June, that was one of the best birthdays I've ever had.

#Comment made: 2003-06-05 17:23:56.764796+00 by: meuon

Expedition weight PolyPro is incredible stuff, warm and comfy even when completely wet, dry's quickly. I've now got 4 tops and 4 bottoms, enough for a long weekend of caving, camping, whatever. My minimum list for 1-3 days: My real good sleeping bag. Food bars, lots of water, extra clothes, hats, boots and sandals, a book, an LED flashlight, a small knife and a lighter. - Best investment I've made: A good sleeping bag, Mine is a Marmot -15 degree Mummy bag. Also been useful for sleeping in cabins, tents, sofa's..chairs..

Car camping in style, on right. My )^( rig has evolved, with a center tent pole (extensible) that bolts onto my Class 3 hitch on my truck (with a camper top).. I like my Coleman 'dual fuel' stove, cheap, lots of heat, shares fuel with my lamp, and if needed it'll run unleaded gas as well as Naptha (coleman fuel). we've found that the very flat metal top of the steel Coleman coolers rocks for a camp kitchen surface. Car camping is not "sissy", its lets you concentrate on the other things you are out camping for.. caving, hiking, bike riding.. doing silly things with friends.

And for car-camping.. the semi-disposable ziplock plates/bowls with covers are multi-useful. the other handy item.. the foldout chairs that recline with a foot rest aren't bad for sleeping in either.

And I'm staying home this weekend.. first time in 4 weeks..

#Comment made: 2003-06-05 20:35:01.688734+00 by: Shawn

meuon, I don't think car camping is "sissy" either. But for my parents, the whole point was to get away from civilization/people. Car camping (or any camping where you didn't have to hike at least five miles first) was pointless to them.

#Comment made: 2003-06-06 06:18:34.870955+00 by: Paul_E_Ester

You can rent everything you need from http://www.outdoors.ucsf.edu/ou/rental.html.

#Comment made: 2003-06-06 14:26:21.34386+00 by: Pete [edit history]

Uh, no I can't. That's a bit out of the way.

#Comment made: 2003-06-06 17:19:46.083796+00 by: Pete

Displaying my ignorance again...

Nobody has mentioned soap. Is using soap in the river a no go? Is it all about liberal use of the handy wipes?

#Comment made: 2003-06-06 17:33:30.869734+00 by: Dan Lyke

Soap is fine, but carry the water several hundred feet from the river before you wash, and make sure that the wastewater has to flow back through a few hundred feet of earth. Soap anywhere near the water will result in bubbles in the eddies that last for a day or two, and are kinda ugly.

There are some "eco-friendly" soaps, but soap is fat and wood ashes, so aside from leaving out some fragrances it's hard to imagine that there's too much more than advertising to that.

But yeah, if you've got the trash bags the handy wipes rock.

#Comment made: 2003-06-09 02:32:08.903724+00 by: Pete [edit history]

meuon, I have no idea what your second picture is trying to get across to me. ???

A cool item I picked up for the excursion: a very small waterproof LED keychain flashlight (Princeton Eclipse). It's about 2 inches long, with half that being a detachable key clip.

I think I've got everything but the consumables (food, beverages and ice). Thanks for your guidance, everybody.

#Comment made: 2003-06-09 04:56:07.290513+00 by: Pete [edit history]

Okay, due to a wierd sense of responsibility brought on by the external links logged below, I want to mention a couple things:

I went with Banana Boat Sport Sunblock SPF 30 instead of Bullfrog, because it blocks UVA and UVB rays, and allegedly smells much better than the competing Bullfrog products, while retaining similar levels of waterproofing.

I also sought out and bought Ultrathon insect repellent (cream) because of convincing reports that it's timed release formulation does last much longer with a similar application than competing products, and that it's as effective as the all-DEET products despite being only 33% DEET. DEET is not the friendliest chemical in the world (it's a significant irritant to the eyes, poisonus if ingested, and melts some plastics!), so doing more with less sounded good to me.

#Comment made: 2003-06-09 13:24:17.377284+00 by: meuon

2nd pic: having fun.. not messing with camp.

#Comment made: 2003-06-11 20:28:00.455956+00 by: Pete

Additional tubing essential: croakies or analog.

#Comment made: 2003-06-11 23:17:49.890852+00 by: Dan Lyke

Hee hee hee. I just walked in here in a mix between embedded systems concentration and afternoon food coma, looked at my screen, saw "camping newbie", and thought Alec was discussing Counter-Strike[Wiki] techniques...

#Comment made: 2003-06-27 18:03:47.030949+00 by: Pete

Better bug repellent is on the way.