Category Archive for: Camping

The Great Outdoor Gym

Stop running on that boring treadmill and get outside for once. In nature you will find the best and greatest outdoor gym. And it’s free! It has everything you want and need plus nice scenic vistas of mountains, parks, and various bodies of water. It can be seaside or lakeside, or even by a pool. Once you switch gears, you won’t go back.

Everyone runs or knows someone who does but it has gotten less popular. The gym is a social place where you can greet friends and maybe your trainer. You share stories about your day and it helps vent whatever went wrong. It is as addictive as any drug. You know your routine and can do it practically blindfolded. The treadmill is your friend, the weights your buddies.

But what are the alternatives? Certainly you want some variety. I know that hunting and fishing burn plenty of calories for me, and it can go on for days! These pastimes are good weight loss activities. Even if you aren’t overweight and want to stay fit, there are plenty of things you can do in the wild.

Swimming, hiking, playing golf or any other sport are as good as aerobic exercise. Anything that involves lifting, even a baseball bat, is akin to strength training in the gym. You don’t necessarily need to contort your body in strange angles or even use one of those strange inversion tables to get the health benefits from exercising. Dieting is good to feel healthy, but working out outdoors will boost energy and flood the brain with powerful relaxing endorphins. There is something inspiring about nature I guess that makes being in it preferable and pleasurable.

You can pick your favorite activity. I have mine. You can look up the calories burned on the Internet. There are calculators that take what you do and multiply it by the minutes you perform or undertake it. Thus you get your total calories consumed. If you have a picnic along the way on your hiking trail, or even a bit of a snack, no matter. You are burning it as you eat.

Routine outdoor chores also work. You get toned while you get things done, like mowing the lawn and washing the car. It is less desirable as a workout just because it is toil, but why not change your perspective on it. You may not shirk your duties once you see it in a new way. Gardening works too, so don’t forget about it. You can save money on hiring a professional if you get into it. All that bending is equivalent of gym squats in any case.

Yes, the great outdoor gym beckons and awaits you. Take photos for Facebook and Instagram and spread the news. You have found the best fitness program on earth and it is there for all the world to see and experience themselves. Add the calories for each activity per month and then get on the scales. You will be pleasantly surprised. One pound of fat is about 3,500 calories. You do the math. It’s your daily burn fitness program. Go for it!

The Bane of Camping

You have seen the movie and sequel Dumb and Dumber. Maybe you have seen My Idiot Brother. They all apply to my sibling when it comes to camping. I let him pick the spot, set the date, and make the plans. I dropped a lot of hints and even set out some clothing items for packing. I mentioned weather issues, tents, entertainment platforms, and hiking boots. I talked food and more food. When we camp, we like to eat well.

So what could go wrong? Everything! First of all it was nice, warm weather, but actually too warm for the locale he had read about. He forgot to see the fine print where it said to go only in the spring. There we were sweltering in an airless space with no air conditioning in sight. We didn’t really need the tents except for sun protection maybe, and our hats would do that just fine.

There was a pond nearby and he thought it would be oh so picturesque. He brought his sketch pad and some charcoal pencils. We sat by the water, drinking beer, and I watched him perform his pictorial magic. We got pretty relaxed in the heat and spent more than a few hours, devouring a nice lunch before returning to base camp. All seemed to be going well until after dark. First one, then the other of us started to itch and scratch. It was an interminable kind of sensation. Mosquito bites are unpleasant and annoying. You can’t sleep unless you pour on the calamine lotion. And we didn’t have any!

My brother hadn’t factored in the wet swampy area attracting the summer crop of mosquitos. Since few humans were around, they were hungry and ready to pounce. We were easy marks sitting there out in the open with bare arms and legs. They feasted well that day and we had a little less blood for our part. Mosquitos require some effort to repel and we did not come equipped with the requisite spray. It would have made a huge difference to conduct some pest control during this outing.

The next day was even more unnerving. Flies started to swarm our food as we were running low on ice. I threw up my hands in despair and said we should head home early while we had some blood, and our sanity, left. My brother did not find this amusing and it was not intended to be. I convinced him that we weren’t wimping out and that itching to death in the sun was a bad way to go. He quite agreed.

We packed our gear, threw out the remaining fly-bitten food, folded the tent, and almost ran to the van. You couldn’t find two happier guys when we arrived at home. The welts had subsided a bit but were visible evidence of our camping suffering. While I won’t go so far as to say I won’t let my brother come on the next trip, but I will mention that he is not to be the planner then, or ever.

Keep the Camp Cool

My favorite camping time is early spring, barring the onslaught of April rain, or late fall (also known as Indian summer). There is less chance of a fire hazard and it is usually mild weather. Who doesn’t like a balmy night that is warm enough to shed the heavy jackets, but cool enough to sleep well? It’s nice to feel the fresh air and not be totally entrapped in a sleeping roll. Only the most hardy, daring souls go in winter anyway. The rest of us recreational campers and fishers like to avoid roughing it too much. Hunters have seasons so they may be caught in some drastic downpour, but we all do our best to book trips appropriately.

I always assumed that I would follow this schedule. However, there was a time I recall when a family unit was formed during the kids’ vacation for a special outing. The organizers were sure that warm weather would be great. You can run around in your swimsuit or shorts and enjoy swimming without shivering. You can sleep in the open all night long. A campfire would primarily be for cooking, not warmth. To a certain extent, this is quite true. The event date was set, everyone was on board, and we started packing— very lightly.

The light part turned out to be wise since we experienced an unexpected and unwanted heat wave. The mountains are not prone to higher temperatures, but guess what? Our weekend was actually more than an anomaly. It was a world record event. We were out there sweating and steaming, even in the early morning as we arrived. As the day wore on, we wore out. It got hotter and hotter and the temperature did not abate at dusk as we hoped. It maintained until at least midnight, at which time we fell asleep exhausted from the heat. Hiking was dreary that day as we trod along slow as oozing snails. We didn’t even want to roast hot dogs much less marshmallows. The next day, one of the uncles came back to camp grinning with glee. He had purchased a portable camping fan, big enough to cool a nice area in front of the main tent. It ran on batteries and could hook into a generator if need be. It was a lifesaver.

We gathered in a circle sitting on mats on the ground. Cool air caressed our dripping faces as we relaxed our tense muscles and slowed our breathing (more like panting) down. We started to enjoy the ambiance and each other a lot more. We decided to sleep with it on and made sure it was plenty charged up. It made the trip bearable if not pleasurable. A fan is not something you expect to take with you, and it requires some room in the van or car, but I now know how much of a necessity it can be. I never even appreciated the ceiling fan at home in the sun room and have always taken it for granted. Not anymore.

Campfires 101

Safety first. This is always a good rule when fishing and hunting. Thinking ahead will help anticipate typical problems and keep you alert and ready. This applies to so many things such as equipment, water safety, and building a fire. I am particularly concerned about the latter since most people give the first two their full attention and neglect the ins and outs of campfire practice. Smokey the Bear is there for good reason! Why not follow his wise rules.

First and foremost, you have to know what you are doing. This is not like adding wood to your indoor fireplace or turning on the gas. A little know-how is in order. Once you decide on a good pre-selected spot, and it is not too dry and hazardous to continue, you can look for existing pits. They are likely to be well away from tents and nearby trees. Check for any other flammable objects, says Smokey.

After the eagle eye tour of your area, you can fill the pit with small pieces of dry wood. Here comes the safety part: keep a buck of water and a shovel close at hand. If you are not using an existing pit, you will have to carefully clear an area, dig a pit, and circle it with rocks.

To continue with Campfires 101: Gather your tinder, kindling and fuel. If you are not familiar with them, you should not be in charge of building the fire! The fuel, by the way, consists of the larger pieces of wood. You pile them loosely to allow oxygen between layers. There are several “styles” of stacking the fuel including forming a tent or crisscross pattern. Now you can get out the matches or lighter. Add wood as the fire grows and blow on it at the base. Here’s the safety part: keep it under complete control.

So far so good. Before I lose your attention, you have a bit more to learn. You have to maintain the fire and then extinguish it properly later. While you add wood as needed, you should always be mindful of a manageable size. The safety part is watching pets and children and protecting them at all times. You should also know not to cut live tree branches or leave your fire unattended. Rules, rules—but they are for your own good.

Finally, it is time to put the fire out. The definition of that in my book is that you can touch it. The wood has burned to ash and you have poured water on all the embers, glowing or not. After all hissing has stopped, you can stir it all with a shovel. An extra ounce of safety means scraping any remaining logs for embers. Take that extra step: it is well worth it!

We are almost done. After the dousing, adding dirt will ensure complete ember obliteration. Many well-meaning campers have ignored all the steps and have caused destructive forest fires. It is an obligation to do it right every time. You are not actually burying the fire with the dirt as it can continue to smolder. You are stirring the whole time. With knowledge about safety, you can feel confident about your camping experience and enjoy the wonderful wilds.

Camping Appliances

An appliance isn’t just a refrigerator or a stove. These are “major” appliances and you can add on a washer and dryer set. Small appliances in the kitchen include mixers, blenders, bread makers, toasters, ovens, and other assorted kitchen appliances. When we are talking about camping, the term takes a different turn. I think of a Coleman stove, hot pots and plug-in sauce pans, battery refrigeration units, mini car vacs, and even microwaves (for those who hate to rough it). These assorted devices are like cheating on the real outdoor experience, but they can sure makes things go a lot easier. Some of us just have to have fresh brewed coffee every morning wherever we are. I would eliminate the electric toothbrush and shaver, however, as being a little too soft for the camping world. I would allow a stainless steel icemaker for a larger group of less than virile woodsmen and maybe a Ninja juice machine.

There are so many possibilities for the well-equipped outdoor kitchen. Camping becomes the art of not roughing it, rather than the other way around. If you don’t mind lugging all this stuff, or can assign one or two to every camper, it is not a bad way to go. After all, we have all heard about those luxury fishing trips that take you into the wilds by helicopter only to find a professional gourmet chef at the site, ready with all kinds of cooking gear. They cost an arm and a leg!

So… that being said… camping appliances are great gifts for the person who has absolutely everything. You can order them on line and have them shipped, so you don’t have to lift a finger. They will also insure the recipient doesn’t have to lift one when enjoying the scenery. There can be more time for photos and hikes. You can occupy the kids with appliances as they like to get into the act and you don’t want them anywhere near the wood fire.

Taking a grill is out of the question and destroys the fun of building your own fire pit. Who doesn’t like to search for wood and kindling? You can be proud of your handiwork as you roast meat over an open flame. You have to employ safety measures, but you do as well with many appliances (and you also have to worry about batteries and power connections). Remember, there are things you can use outdoors at home like smokers and turkey fryers that don’t necessarily belong on a camping adventure.

There is nothing like camping during the warmer season for the whole family, or just a male bonding outing. Getting a cold beer out of the automatic cooler is heaven. You don’t have to go running off for ice. Fresh juice in the morning can be done by hand, but then again… It all comes down to what kind of camper you are. We are not all purists! I have seen portable washing machines and showers that are amazing. Compact and lightweight, they easily find a place in the car or RV. The longer your trip, the more you will find these items quite handy.