Tuesday, November 24, 2015

V is for Visitors

The only visitors that gave us trouble during our entire 12,360-mile car-camping adventure were bears and mosquitoes. The first night, a black bear decided to join us for dinner. The second night, our plans changed due to swarms of ravenous mosquitoes. Another night, a Yukon ranger advised us to move on due to a sizable grizzly, which browsed nicely next to the road while Joel took pictures on our way out of the campground. And throughout the trip, we made several changes due to the relentless mosquitoes.

Bear tips from our trip include:
  • Know the difference between a black bear and a grizzly – and what to do during an encounter with each
  • Cook elsewhere from where you sleep
  • Keep a scrupulously clean camp
  • Store all food in a bear-proof box (provided at many campsites in Alaska) or closed up securely (and odor-free) inside your vehicle
Mosquito tips from our trip include:
  • Avoid wet/swampy areas
  • Prepare your bed well before you stop for the night (like when you stop for dinner)
  • Cool the interior of your car before stopping to sleep and keep doors and windows closed as much as possible
  • Before settling in for the night, stroll well away and then dash back and quickly jump inside your car before the mosquitoes can catch you

Depending on where you camp, you may be plagued by either bears or mosquitoes…or both. And depending on your camping location (headed for Alaska, anyone?), you may even get to deal with a big griz. For us, mosquitoes were much more problematic than bears – they’re not as dangerous but there sure were more of them!

Friday, November 20, 2015

F is for Food

In addition to apples, other fresh fruit makes great car camping food. Bananas, for example, each come individually packaged by nature in an easy-to-remove wrapper! A few other suggestions include:
  • Fresh produce – especially baby carrots and cherry tomatoes
  • Dried fruit/nuts (trail mix) – but be careful, this is a very calorie dense snack option!
  • Juice boxes – may cost more but convenience usually comes at a price
  • Powdered milk – good staple to have on hand and available in small packets
  • Uncle Ben’s rice or Stove Top stuffing – sometimes you may choose to compromise for convenience
  • Peanut butter – individual servings or in a jar (kept upright to avoid oil leakage)
  • Eggs – boiled eggs can’t be beat as an easy protein source when it comes to convenience, nutrition and cost
  • Prepackaged, frozen steaks – individually wrapped, these beauties are great on the grill and keep several days in an ice chest

Just remember that the purpose of food is to fuel your body. When spending long hours sitting in the car, you don’t require as much fuel so choose your food wisely. And if you must have candy, buy “fun size” and put the extra out of reach – way out of reach! Also, you can share meals eaten out, which avoids waste, saves money and prevents weight gain. Happy travels!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

K is for Kitchen Stuff

Although it’s important to travel light due to limited space, you’ll need to pack a certain amount of kitchen stuff for car camping, depending on how long you’ll be gone and what meals you plan to make. At a minimum, be sure to remember:
  • Frying pan and spatula (unless you’ll do all cooking in your Jetboil)
  • Drinking cup, eating utensils and plate and/or bowl for each person
  • Dish soap
  • Towels (cloth and/or paper)
We also made good use of a couple lidded, plastic containers (which we also used as bowls) but probably could have gotten by without them.

So… What must-have kitchen stuff do you take camping?

Friday, November 13, 2015

E is for Essential Equipment

In addition to a tire repair kit and air pump(s) (see T is for Tires and B is for Bedding), essential equipment for car camping includes:
  • First aid kit – you can buy one or make your own
  • Car jump starter – super important and the one thing we almost needed that we didn’t have
  • Flashlight (and/or headlamp and/or battery lantern), with extra batteries
  • Weather-resistant, foolproof fire starter, such as a butane lighter
  • Duct tape
  • Bungee cord(s)

I know this is by no means an exhaustive list. What have I forgotten?

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

R is for Rope

Envisioning me stuck in the middle of a creek crossing on the Nebesna Road in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park during our Alaskan adventure, Joel bought 100 feet of 13,000-pound-test Dyneema 5/16-inch “blue steel” rope (similar to AMSTEEL BLUE ) and a bunch of rigging so he could pull our Subaru out by himself if need be. I’m happy to say that the rope and rigging came home unused but it was nice to be prepared.

While Dyneema may be overkill for your needs, rope can come in handy for lots of things when car camping, such as:
  • Clothesline
  • Tie downs
  • Hanging food
  • Towing (use multiple strands for strength)
  • Repairs (backpack strap, etc.)
  • Belt or suspenders
So, what other ways do you use rope when camping?

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Friday, November 6, 2015

X is for Xtra Cash

Ok – so I cheated on the heading. Yes, I know how to spell extra. But do you know how hard it is to come up with a car camping related item that starts with X? And the letters C (cash) and M (money) were already taken, so…

Be sure to have some extra cash stashed separately from your credit/debit card(s) and in a place other than your purse or wallet. Why? Well, if your purse or wallet is stolen or lost, or if you can’t use a plastic means of payment (power outage, misplaced or damaged card, faulty card reader, etc.), you’ll be glad you have cash handy to get you through.

Suggestions for places you might stash cash include:
  • Money Belt – I have one that fits flat against my body under my clothes
  • Nooks and crannies in your car – look for spots that are relatively easy to access but not too obvious
  • Ice chest – in a zip-top bag taped securely inside the lid
  • Suitcase, duffel bag or backpack – securely tucked away
  • Pillow – attached at one end, inside the pillowcase

And how much cash should you have on hand? Whatever is reasonable based on your potential immediate needs and distance from home or relatives/friends who are able and willing to help. Just remember where you put it…

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I is for Ice Chest

Ice chests come in many sizes and types, from a simple insulated bag to a fancy 12-volt version that plugs into your car – the options seem nearly limitless! When choosing an ice chest, consider what will work best for you:
  • Hard side vs. soft side
  • Zipper closure vs. lock/latch
  • Size – Does it fit in the front seat? (often your only option when car camping)
  • Weight when full – Can you lift it?
We started out with a zippered insulated tote bag style cooler, which we love for bringing home groceries, but quickly determined a medium size freestanding hard-sided plastic ice chest was a better fit for our trip. We also discovered that zip-top bags DO NOT keep food dry in melting ice so bought leak proof containers to house items we didn’t want submerged in water (like butter and avocados).

Friday, October 30, 2015

U is for Umbrella

There’s no doubt about it – I’m an umbrella fan. For the most part, I don’t like hoods or hats and prefer to hold an umbrella instead. And I even bought Joel an umbrella hat to protect his camera when he's out taking pictures in the rain.

An umbrella can come in real handy when car camping, too. Not only will it protect you from rain, you can also use it as a personal sunshade (think old-fashioned parasol). And when not in use, you can just keep it tucked away in your car. Umbrellas are:
  • Affordable
  • Versatile
  • Readily available in many styles, colors and sizes

If you don’t already have an umbrella living in your car, be sure to pick one up before your next car-camping adventure.

Isn't this camo umbrella hat cute? Now if I could only get Joel to wear it...

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