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By luckychere On 03/19/04  

Do you camp?

As a kid growing up in Chicago, my dad and I frequently went camping in the spring or fall in western Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. I loved it. The last time I went camping was over spring break my senior year in high school, when three friends and I convinced our parents to let us go camping over spring break (I think the only reason we pulled off the coup, in hindsight, was that my dad drove us there, picked us up, and two of the kids had their parents oh-so-cool mid '90s car phones).

Unfortunately, I haven't been since! Mr. Lucky and I decided that we'd like to get into camping together, partially influenced by the fact that my dad got me a nice two-person tent and a cook stove for Christmas. So we headed to REI last weekend, got ourselves some ideas, and are planning on looking up places where we could go camping for my birthday, early/mid April. I know the weather is more than likely to be iffy, and a few people I've told think camping in northern IL in early April is insane, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. One of the only things I *don't* like about camping is not being able to depend on the weather in order to plan a trip in advance. Okay, that and outhouses. Ew.

So, do you camp? Car camping, hike-in camping? Do you go with just the bare necessities of supplies or take your whole life with you? Do you like a long weekend getaway or prefer to go for a week or more?

It's spring... viva la camping!

By wendy_darling On 03/19/04  

I love camping! When I was growing up, our family didn't have a lot of money, so we went camping a whole bunch. I'm still very much in the habit. So far, my favorite place to camp has been the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I have great memories of crawling out of the tent and dragging myself sleepily over to the fire for a cup of instant coffee. I always eat the weirdest stuff when I'm camping and mostly it tastes 1000x better than it would under normal circumstances.

My friend and I camp at the beach every summer. So far we've visited a different beach each year, although my favorite is still Chincoteague, VA. Our camping trips are always somehow cursed (rain, car trouble, insanely aggressive squirrels, etc.) but we're gluttons for punishment that way.

By evilducky On 03/19/04  

Ooh i love to camp! Im jealous! When we were little, we'd pack up the old pop up camper and go all over the west. My husband and i have gone a couple of times, with a tent. No cookstove, we just used the barbeque pit at the campsite. We've done northern WI (eagle river) in the beginning of May and it was pretty cold at night. One bit of advice - sleep naked together- much warmer. :D

By pretendngsanity On 03/20/04  

We love camping. !!!! Living in Colorado I don't know how we couldn't. The last two weekends we have gone... it was a bit chilly with the kiddos (2 years and 5 1/2 months) but enjoyable just the same. In fact, we just returned and I am waiting for my husband to get out of the shower so that I can wash the camp fire smell off me!
We tent camp and have decided that until the kids are a little older we will just stick to campgrounds. It's just too hard to do it the "real" way with the babes being so small.

By kazoogrrl On 03/20/04  

We camp may times all summer. It's all car camping, because, well, I'm just not prepared to back pack right now.

We have a tent, and a shade structure we put up for "bigger trips." Then I have all of my stuff packed in rubbermaid bins - one for food and cooking stuff, one for camping things like hatchet, toilet paper, flashlights, etc. If we are really camping there's another for more equipment. And we have those collapsing chairs (awesome), a two burner stove with a stand, and we're always hauling water along. And if it's the correct event we also have all of our fire spinning equipment, and decorations too (lights, pink flamingos, etc.).

Here's some of my tips:
- antibacterial baby wipes - keep you clean without a shower
- get a sleeping pad or air matress - if you sleep in your bag in the tent on the ground you will lose all your body heat
- take an extra tarp, I swear
- lots of socks
- wool or other warm out layer - cotton if wet can give you hypothermia, even in summer

Last year we camped in Glen Rock PA (beautiful, sunny), Odessa Delaware (3 day rain and mud a foot thick), York PA (hot, random thunderstorm), Assateaque MD (beach camping, hot sunny awesome), Black Rock PA (cool, hot, wet and dry!) and Delaware again (sunny, warm, lovely).

By bilblio On 03/21/04  

I love camping. I'd love to travel the world, but I can't afford to. Also everyone would ask me what the UK was like, and I haven't a clue, so I'm getting to know it. We go as often as we can during the year. Sometimes just me and the blokey, but usually we get a gang together, and take a couple of cars. Getting away for a weekend, with fresh air and lack of computers does us all the word of good.

Because we tend to go as a group I've invested in some good camping equipment. Last year I bought a double burner stove which has a grill (it's better than my oven at home.) Until then we'd used a tiny little screw on burner, which was precarious, and when cooking for 6 meant breakfast took forever. We've also got a big 4 man tent which has a sleeping area, and a living area, so we can all get inside when the weather turns miserable, which it does a lot. Fold up chairs, blow up mattresses and a duvet instead of sleeping bags are our bit of luxury.

Because I'm in England we have to use campsites, it's illegal to just pitch your tent anywhere without the landowners permission. But the campsites tend to be good, and so long as it's not a Bank Holiday they tend to be filled with 20-somethings rather than screaming kids or teenagers.

Roll on mid April when our first trip is planned. It'll hopefully be the first time this year that the weather will be nice enough, and I'm desperate to get away.

Oh I keep everything I need in plastic boxes, so they can be quickly put into the car and we can go.

By aubrigail On 03/21/04  

Hey I've done a lot of car camping (usually while on rock climbing trips) and backpacking, and I love talking about outdoorsy-stuff, so here goes...

Iffy's hard to know what the weather will do even when you're looking it up right before you go on a trip. I'd plan on camping in any weather (i.e. bring waterproof stuff and warm layers, a book or deck of cards if you're stuck inside a tent) but give yourselves the option of bailing if you're not having fun.

I think it's important to strike a balance between bare minimum and taking your whole life. You want to be comfortable, but you also want to get away from the craziness of everyday life
If you're car camping, I'd take extras like..
*a fullsized pillow
*a cooler for perishable food
* more extra clothes in case you get wet or cold (wool, fleece, warm hats, wool socks, etc)
*camp or folding chairs
*fun extras--marshmallows for the campfire, minature chess set, watercolor paints, whatever floats your boat

Random other advice...
*test your gear ahead of time, set up your tent, fire up your stove
*Bring a cell phone but leave it in the car for emergencies
*Let friends and family know your plans
*don't buy a bunch of gear right off, learn what you need and like before shelling out the money (some schools, outdoor stores have rental gear) and figure out what kind of camping you like, in what seasons, and where you want to camp...these factors make big differences in what gear you'll need. I loooove REI. They carry good gear and hire knowledgable staff, but they are trying to sell gear and you may not need everything they suggest (research before buying anything expensive)
*Plan meals in advance and don't think you need to eat "camping" food...I'm not a fan of freeze-dried food or dehydrated food, and like to stick to easy recipes (pasta and sause, chicken and rice, etc) instead
*Check out resources online (, for recipes, good camping locations, and advice.

Okay...this is turning into a novel, so I'll stop...have fun camping!!!!!

By luckychere On 03/22/04  

Yay! Glad there are others out there.

Unfortunately to date, I've only been car camping, mainly because I grew up in Chicago and all my camping exeriences are within a few hours of here... and there's not much middle-of-nowhere to be had. ;) I'd absolutely love to go camping in the mountains. I have zero desire to see another sole other than who I'm camping with when I go, which is basically unheard of if you go car camping. However when I went that time in high school we were at a place where you parked a bit away and then walked your stuff in, and it was early enough in the season that I don't remember there being anyone else but us. It was fab.

We don't have a yard or anything (live in a condo), so we're probably going to set up the tent in the middle of the living room to test it out... that should be a hoot! I'm actually planning to make a few calls to state parks this morning to see if anywhere will be open early April. I really, really want to pull this trip off.

Here's a question for those of you who car camp-- what do you do about firewood?

By victoria h On 03/22/04  

Hi, I just wanted to add my two cents since I've never gone car camping, I've only used my bike to take me to camping-type places.

When I bike toured I packed clothes for anywhere from one week to two months (lots of underwear and wool), an MSR campstove (the kind that use gasoline - it's the cheapest, and you just refill the container you already have), eating utensils, stainless steel cook pots, bike parts, tools, a good book (only one), a thermorest mattress (the kind that you fill up with air and roll up when they're empty), a light two-person tent, a tarp, rope or twine, waterproof matches, toilet paper in a ziplock baggy, water, a cell phone (handy if you're not around a lot of people),lots of food...I forget what else. A tape player can be nice too if you're isolated and want to have a dance party.

I too hate camping around other people, but unfortunately it is more and more common now for RV-ers to be at every single campground...when I went on my last big camping trip, it was in the middle of hunting season and free-camping wasn't really an option. All the little mom-and-pop campgrounds have been run out and KOAs are all over the place now, and they're horrible. State parks can be ok if they're not too crowded, but they're usually closed if it's "out of season" (whatever). State park camping fees in Oregon and California are $1 or $2 if you are on a bike.

I'm going on another camping trip next week, and I'm excited but also nervous because it'll be my first time car-camping. But, it will be in the middle of nowhere, so I am very happy about that.

By brdgt On 03/23/04  

We did our first camping trips last summer and had so much fun. We are not real outdoorsy types, so it was car camping, but the backcountry camping seemed like so much fun.

We camped at:
Acadia National Park (Maine)
Custer State Park (South Dakota - Black hills)
Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
Colorado National Monument (Colorado) - MY FAVORITE!
Mesa Verde (Colorado)
Grand Canyon - North and South Rims (Arizona)

-and then at the end of the trip all our camping gear was stolen - so now we have to buy new stuff for this summer!

By laoni On 03/23/04  

Hey, I'm a big camping fan too. I've done both car camping(traveling up the east coast and camping at smokey mtns, shenandoah, acadia, etc), and I've hiked on the Appalachian Trail from West Virginia to New Hamshire(months) and in part of Virginia(a week). I'd second what other folks have said, particularly the stuff about clothing. Since you're going to be camping when it will very likely still be cold/wet, make sure to have wool and/or synthetics. No cotton. Maybe not as big a deal if you'll be car camping, but I hear so many stories about people going out for a short hike underprepared and wearing the wrong type of clothing and ending up with hypothermia or worse. You just never know, particularly when the weather is likely to be variable anyway. Having said that, Have Fun!

By WildSnowflake On 03/23/04  

Hmmm April camping... you are a brave girl. I did spring camping once and almost had to reinact that Andy Kaufman/Rhea Perlman Taxi episode with my ex b/f and brother!

May I suggest the Bonnie and Clyde Slumberjack sleeping bag... it's for couples. Basically two rectangular sleeping bags that can be connected to make one... (wink wink)

I do mostly carside camping and bring a one burner stove with me... I like to use it when the weather is iffy or early in the morning for the coffee. Other than that it's the campfire (bring a little grill top just in case the one they have is scuzzy). The first night I like to fancy it up a bit and make shrimp scampi... take some letover chinese white rice, shell and cook the shrimp in some garlic butter and you are done! Also bring some munchies that you can take with you on your hikes.

We have lots of black bears in our area and have to be real careful with the food. In fact, they make you real paranoid about it.

Bring a drop cloth for under your tent. And an extra one with bungie cords so that you can have it over the picnic table should it rain. Playing cards and some reading you've been meaning to do are perfect for those type of days

Since the ground might still be cold from the winter, bring an extra blanket or two to put on the inside tent bottom as well. That cold can get into your bones like you wouldn't believe.

ETA: Regarding firewood... often the site or neighboring general stores will sell you a bundle for 5-10... however, I usually bring my own bought from places that sell it during the winter just in case. (we also tend to get to the sites when the offices are closed and so wouldn't be able to get wood until the morning)

By silverbell On 03/23/04  

What a timely thread! I live in Chicago and I was just thinking about going camping.

Luckychere, do you mind sharing the names of some of the places you've camped?

Yesenia - wannabe-camper

By luckychere On 03/23/04  

Yesenia, I just emailed you with a bunch of stuff about camping in IL. :)

WildSnowflake, that sleeping bag is a hoot! We each have separate ones already which definitely wouldn't be able to be joined, so that's definitely something to consider. I only wish it's temp range went a little lower... not that I'm looking to camp when it's 10 degrees out, but cold spells happen!

I saw fire wood at the grocery store the other day and realized that might be how we have to bring some in. It does seem a little ridiculous, but we're planning to arrive after most nearby places would be closed (and since it's off-season, there definitely wouldn't be any place to get it in the park), so we might have to do it that way too.

By cleanout On 03/23/04  

i'm chiming in here to share that my first camping experience was with the glitter girls on the first annual bay area pitch and bitch in 2002. we swam, we had smores, we were victims of a windstorm. i drove up late with talullah in her mercedes bringing a croquet set and a travel bar. that's our kind of camping. now, i'm planning a drive to las vegas and camping at june lake this summer. should be fun!

By victoria h On 03/23/04  

I've had multiple sleeping bags, and they've always been able to zip up to another bag. You just have to make sure one has a right zipper and one has a left. Personally I am a fan of Sierra Designs sleeping bags. Mmm, comfy.

By luckychere On 04/07/04  


Three days before we're supposed to leave, and it looks like any place within a couple hundred mile radius of us is going to be about 40 degrees all weekend, with a low of somewhere between 25 to 30.

Are we insane for still considering this? My boyfriend is worried he'll freeze. :/

By outofrange On 04/07/04  

hey kazoo i gotta question for ya:

you mentioned assateague and ive always wanted to go there...
when is the best time to go do you think because ive heard that the bugs are really bad at certain times.


By kazoogrrl On 04/07/04  

outofrange: well, it's worse when it's wet, so that would be about March - October!

Make reservations ahead of time. Try to get a spot on the beach - there will be a breeze and it'll help with the bugs (our first night the breeze quit around midnight and we went to bed before the bugs ate us up). Take OFF. Take citronella. Don't leave out food, it's a pony attractor. You can take wood for fires on the beach. Take a bike, it's flat and you can bike around. And if you don't mind packing heavy, take a shade structure as it's really sunny. Have fun!

By spyderkl On 04/07/04  

Well, not insane exactly...; ) Just make sure you're prepared for some cold weather (nice warm sleeping bags, maybe an extra tarp for underneath the tent, cold weather clothes, etc.) You'll be fine. The only thing I worry about in cold-weather camping is being wet. If there's a possibility of rain or snow, you might want to put off your weekend until warmer weather hits.

I camped a lot as a little girl (car camping), and my husband and I had a camping trip for our honeymoon (backpacking in the Smokies at the end of March). We're going again this summer - our baby hasn't been quite old enough yet. It'll be car camping for a while, too.

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