Guest post from Gretchen of Desert Survivor
Camping can be one of the cheapest and most memorable ways to take a vacation! Here’s how to make it a successful venture:
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
If you don’t sleep well, you probably won’t be able to do other things well. If you have access to a camper, that can almost be like sleeping at home. However, sleeping in a tent can be a different story.
Over the years, our beds at home have become more comfortable, with foam padding, pillow-top mattresses, and more. The ground has stayed the same: hard. And if you’re not used to hard, you won’t sleep well.
So bring a sleeping pad. This could be the inflatable mattress you use for guests at home, a specially made camping pad, or a bunch of blankets folded up. It doesn’t matter, as long as you have something. Kids might not need anything. But as I’ve told my family numerous times, “I have hips.” Women’s hips just need a little extra padding!
Make sure you have appropriate covers — if it’s hot, you won’t need so many, but there’s nothing like being freezing cold to keep you from sleeping well. The covers don’t have to be fancy, just bring enough — and don’t forget that you might need one under you too!
Finally, be sure the tent you’re in is adequate for the weather. There’s nothing worse than setting up your tent and then having a thunderstorm drench everything in it because the rainfly wasn’t on or adequate. A higher quality tent will provide more protection and last more years, but if all you have is a cheaper one, you can rig a tarp over it to help keep it dry.
Two more tips for sleeping through the night: be sure to bring a pillow. It’s amazing how much that helps. And bring earplugs. They can help muffle noises that you’re not used to and help you sleep better.
Plan Your Meals
I’m not a very good meal planner at home, but when I go camping, I make lists. I want to make sure that I’m going to have something to eat. I’ve camped with a couple different types of campers: the gourmets, and the survivalists. Both have merits. Regardless of the type, both need some meal planning. As you can see with the two menus below, it’s possible to have a simple menu with a quick clean-up that’s not costly but still healthy.
Breakfast: juice, yogurt, scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee
Lunch: sandwiches, carrots, apples
Dinner: potato-carrot-sausage foil dinner, corn on the cob roasted over the fire, S’mores
Snacks: fruit, cut-up vegetables, homemade trail mix
Breakfast: homemade muffins, hard-boiled eggs, bananas, milk
Lunch: tortilla wraps, cherry tomatoes, oranges
Dinner: hot dogs, green beans, popcorn,
Snacks: nuts, dried fruit, granola bars
To keep food cool, instead of buying a bag of ice, I often freeze water in old juice or milk containers and put them in the cooler. The ice stays longer, and as it melts, I have additional drinking water instead of a soggy mess at the bottom of the cooler.
If you have kids, have them help plan the meals, they will then be much more excited about helping to prepare it!
As for a camp kitchen, I keep mine in a see-through Rubbermaid container. I have simple pots and pans, a can opener, plates, cups, eating utensils, spatula, matches, paper towels, aluminum foil, and spices packed and ready to go to make getting out the door easier. Sometimes we cook over a fire and sometimes we use a Coleman stove.
Camping can be as simple as eating and sleeping. You can add a few activities like hiking, fishing, star gazing, and wildlife watching. Games around camp that we enjoy are flashlight tag (those simple finger flashlights make for cheap fun!), hide ‘n seek, t-ball, frisbee, ring toss, and catching insects.
Camping is a great way to unplug, spend some quality family time, and relax. Although camping can be frugal, the memories it makes are priceless.
Gretchen Baker lives nearly in the middle of nowhere (it’s three hours to the closest shopping mall). Fortunately, she has a good Internet connection. She lives on a ranch next to a national park and blogs at Desert Survivor about how to survive and thrive in the desert environment.