Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Must-Haves For The Tenderfoot

Yeah, get used to the term “Tenderfoot.” Whenever my family and I go camping, particularly during the summer months, we always find the opportunity to participate in the time-honored camping activity of watching with undisguised amusement while the novice camper sets up camp. If you’ve never camped before, expect to be watched by the seasoned veterans while you struggle with your tent. We’re not laughing at you – not really. We don’t mean anything unkind by it. It’s just that we’ve all been there, and we’re remembering with fondness how we felt just starting out, and we’re envying you all the adventures you have in front of you yet to be enjoyed.

The key to a rewarding outdoor experience is preparation. The more work you’ve done before leaving home, the easier your adventure will be. Assuming that you’re not planning on back country primitive camping – that’s a little advanced for the novice camper – there is some basic equipment that you’ll need to have to make your experience as pleasant as possible.

1. Tent – it seems simple enough and straightforward enough, but you need a tent large enough to accommodate every member of your party – at least those who’ll be sleeping with you. I personally like my tents larger than the packaging says I need. For example, I prefer a four-person tent for two people, or even when I camp alone. I frequently took a dog or two with me for company on the trails and a larger tent held a dog crate or two with little trouble. Also, if the weather turns on you, or the bugs plague you too much, you will want someplace to retreat to.
2. Sleeping Bag – Depending on the weather for your first venture, there are many different types of bags to consider. Even in the summer, the temperatures in some locations drop well below comfort levels. I found early on that I was most comfortable with a lighter weight fiber-filled bag, a fleece bag, and a standard bedsheet. I could layer them and add or subtract layers as needed.
3. Cookware – One of the best things about camping out is eating in the great outdoors. To have this experience, you’ll need some kind of cookware. The typical cookware set is enamelware, consisting of a percolator coffee pot, a frying pan, a stock pot and a sauce pan. Don’t forget a sharp Chef’s knife, spatula, large fork, large spoon, and tongs. Sometimes, you can find the enamelware cookware in a set complete with the next item on the list…
4. Mess Kit – Again, for starting out, nothing beats the basic enamelware mess kit. The typical kit comes with four plates that can double as shallow bowls, four coffee cups, some do come with bowls, and also include utensils. Whether you find them as a complete kit with the cookware or not, you will need something to eat off of. I can confess that the first time I went camping without my father, I forgot to take a mess kit or utensils. Fortunately, the camp store had paper plates and plastic utensils for sale.
5. Propane Stove and Extra Propane – It only goes to reason that you’ll need something to cook that bacon on. It’s possible to cook over your campfire. In fact, I was more accustomed to cooking that way and didn’t bother with a camp stove for years. It wasn’t until I camped with a friend, a tenderfoot, who marveled at my ability to prepare breakfast over the campfire that it ever occurred to me that not everyone was comfortable with that kind of cooking. So if you’re not very experienced with preparing meals over a campfire, then I suggest you spring for the stove. There are many different kinds to choose from. The one I chose for myself was a backpacker’s stove. The difference between a backpacker’s stove and a standard camp stove is the backpacker’s stove is much more streamlined, lighter in weight, and much shallower. If you’re planning on any back country or primitive camping, you may want to consider a backpacker’s stove as an alternative to a standard camp stove.
6. Propane Lantern and Extra Mantles – It gets dark out there. Once night falls, the hiss of a propane lantern is a welcome sound. Mantles are the treated mesh bags that actually provide the light.
Travel Chair with Footrest - Blue7. Comfortable Folding Camp Chairs – This is another item I didn’t think about on my very first camping trip without my father and his endless supply of gear. There is only so long you can sit on the ground before the cold seeps through your bones. Straight chairs with straight backs can be uncomfortable after an extended time. I’ve found for myself that the semi-recumbent sling seats with a footrest are the most comfortable for a long-term camping trip. I will admit that the footrest tends to get in the way of warming yourself by the campfire, though. My cousin Tom brings a folding recliner whenever he goes camping. Those are great too, but they can be a little pricey.
8. Flashlight – It seems self-evident, but that’s something else I forgot on my first trip. Don’t forget extra batteries.
9. Cooler – You’ve got to have something to carry food in.
10. Towels, Soap, Personal Toiletries, Bug Spray, Sunscreen, Dish Soap, Plastic Trash Bags
11. Rope, Duct Tape, Fire Starter Logs, Waterproof Matches, Bucket, First Aid Kit – The rope for a clothesline, or any emergency use, duct tape for sealing leaks and quick waterproof fixes, firestarter logs to help get the campfire going, waterproof matches for the same reason, bucket for hauling water in case the fire gets out of hand, and for cleaning up, and the First Aid Kid for emergencies.

There are so many other items that you will want to add to your list but the above items are all you really need to have a satisfactory camping experience.

The best way to make sure that you’re not as entertaining to the rest of us as most novice campers on their first outing is to break out your gear before you go. Learn how to assemble your tent and pack it up again. Practice rolling up your sleeping bag so it fits back in that nice little bag it came in. A little advance planning, and you’ll look like you’ve been doing this for years.

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