Author Topic: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)  (Read 6409 times)

onehappypanda

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Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« on: May 10, 2012, 09:43:24 PM »
So the boyfriend and I started chatting the other day about taking a little trip the first/second week of June. We're both students, and we've both been working our butts off lately and I know I'm feeling pretty burnt out. Saw the MMM post about getting out into nature and it has me thinking that a trip away from civilization for a few days might be what I need to recover. Hence, the boyfriend and I are thinking of going camping.

Problem is, I haven't actually gone camping or anything since I was a little kid. Neither has the boyfriend. We have zero camping skills, and no equipment. But I started snooping around and found out that I can borrow/rent basic camping gear from my university for a week for free/low-cost.  So this seems viable.

So, the advice I need:

1) Where's a good place to go camping within driving distance of the central Ohio area? Hocking Hills is nearby but I used to live in the area, so that's a little boring for me. I don't mind a little road trippin' out of state but we don't want the trip to be all driving. I've been told there are great places in the Michigan area, any specific recommendations though?

2) What the heck do we need to bring? <-- remember, camping newbs here.

3) Is there any such thing as a bug repellant spray that doesn't smell like pure chemical death? For some reason, I'm an absolute bug magnet. I can't even go out in my backyard at night without coming in covered in bites. I can be sitting right next to someone outside, they'll be fine, I'll be battling swarms of mosquitos. I see this posing a problem with the whole nature thing.

4) Other general advice? How to build a tent, make a fire, avoid getting eaten by bears, etc. I'll be honest, we considered renting a cabin because we're city slickers at heart and this whole live-in-a-tent-no-electricity thing is daunting. It's so much more expensive and less badass to get a cabin. But it's still tempting. Someone convince me this isn't a terrible idea?

gooki

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2012, 03:25:17 AM »
I can't answer all your questions but here goes.

You need:
Tent
Food
Clothing
Sleeping stuff
Emergency kit

Tents are cheap, you don't need anything big (I'd opt for a sleeps 3 or 4 person tent) if it's just the two of you. And modern ones are super easy to set-up.

Food - take you pick you can get stuff that doesn't need cooking so no need for a heat source, or mix it up - some ready to heat, some heat and eat stuff (but then you'll either want a gas/butane stove, or be able to make a fire (PS I have no idea if you are allowed open fires in your state). Some water wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Clothing - comfortable stuff, then wet weather kit, and hot weather kit.

Sleeping stuff - Sleeping bag and mat is how I usually roll.

Emergency kit - First aid, matches, $60 cash, torch, whistle, knife, a pot (or something to cook in) etc

And last but not least - do it. No excuses, you need it.

twinge

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2012, 05:12:45 AM »
Quote
1) Where's a good place to go camping within driving distance of the central Ohio area? Hocking Hills is nearby but I used to live in the area, so that's a little boring for me. I don't mind a little road trippin' out of state but we don't want the trip to be all driving. I've been told there are great places in the Michigan area, any specific recommendations though?

All the amazing places I know in MI are in the Northern third/UP which would likely be more driving than you want.  But you pretty much can't go wrong with any state/national park up there.


Quote
3) Is there any such thing as a bug repellant spray that doesn't smell like pure chemical death? For some reason, I'm an absolute bug magnet. I can't even go out in my backyard at night without coming in covered in bites. I can be sitting right next to someone outside, they'll be fine, I'll be battling swarms of mosquitos. I see this posing a problem with the whole nature thing.

There's a bunch of natural bug repellants that work for my family--pretty much anyone I have found works so I don't have a specific recommendation for an amazing one.  They do often overwhelm one with a citrus-y, citronella herbal scent though if you're sensitive to that.  The other recommendation would just be to wear light long clothes, don't pitch your tent near a body of water, and take a nap or something around dusk when it's at its worst.

Quote
4) Other general advice? How to build a tent, make a fire, avoid getting eaten by bears, etc. I'll be honest, we considered renting a cabin because we're city slickers at heart and this whole live-in-a-tent-no-electricity thing is daunting. It's so much more expensive and less badass to get a cabin. But it's still tempting. Someone convince me this isn't a terrible idea?

As Gooki said, putting up tents is super-easy these days and they are pretty cozy, water-tight etc. 
As for sleeping...I used to be a sleep in the sleeping bag on the ground person, but we went camping when my baby was still nursing/sleeping with us and brought our guest air mattress for all to sleep on and it was amazingly comfy.  I have to say I haven't gone back to my more badass ways yet and she's 3... hedonic adaptation, I guess. I still sleep on the ground when I have to CARRY my camping materials, but when we have kids and a car...

As for animals, just keep food closed up and separate from you at night.  Or really, just follow whatever the park rangers/signage suggest as each area is different and many places it's not so much an issue.

I didn't really have anything to add to gooki's list.  I expand it a little when we are going car camping, but some of that is for kids' stuff.

My main advice is just do it. 
« Last Edit: May 11, 2012, 06:16:54 AM by twinge »

Parizade

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2012, 06:04:54 AM »
Have you checked out your state parks?
http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/overnightfacilities/camping/tabid/19426/Default.aspx

If you want to ease into the camping thing, try to find a park with camper cabins. These are more rustic than a hotel but not as rustic as tent camping.

This is a good website for how-to camping info:
http://www.joyofcamping.com/camping-tips/beginner-camping-mistakes/

As for bugs, a woman who worked in mosquito control once told me that she took garlic capsules daily and never had a problem getting bitten. You can buy them at most health supplement stores. I take Curcumin capsules daily and noticed bugs leave me alone more since I started too.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2012, 09:42:01 AM by Parizade »

arebelspy

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2012, 08:48:21 AM »
Do you have any friends that have done any recent camping?

They'd be a huge resource for advice (where to go, what to bring, etc.).  Ideally you could invite them along and mooch on some equipment (or even borrow some if they can't go) - who wouldn't lend a friend a tent or some camping cookware?
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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2012, 09:20:24 AM »
Quote
1) Where's a good place to go camping within driving distance of the central Ohio area? Hocking Hills is nearby but I used to live in the area, so that's a little boring for me. I don't mind a little road trippin' out of state but we don't want the trip to be all driving. I've been told there are great places in the Michigan area, any specific recommendations though?

All the amazing places I know in MI are in the Northern third/UP which would likely be more driving than you want.  But you pretty much can't go wrong with any state/national park up there.

This is true.  I grew up in MI and we always headed north to camp (I lived in central MI).  A good part of the south side of the state is either urban or farm land.  There are some nice places on the west coast of MI though.  www.michigan.org will give you some places to start.

5oclockshadow

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2012, 09:38:37 AM »
I'll add a few bits:

1.  For a first time trip, a State Park isn't a bad option.  Often, there's quite a bit of foot traffic, but occasionally coming across other people can be kind of comforting if you're a newbie.  If you want to do something simple just to get your feet wet, a good local (about 1 hour) option would be John Bryan State Park near Yellow Springs, OH.  A short drive to Clifton, OH will bring you to some really beautiful walking trails in a fairly dramatic gorge.  An added advantage of a state park is that you can stop by the Ranger Station to get the scoop on what is worth seeing. 

2. 
- A tent.  For 2 people, you probably want a 3-4 person tent.  The sizing of tents is based on small people who like being close.  Always go one "person" higher if you want comfortable camping with room for your gear in the tent.  If you can't rent one from school, a quick search of Columbus Craigslist shows adequate tents for less than $50.   One note:  Try setting up the tent BEFORE you go on the trip.  You don't want to be by yourself racing sundown trying to figure out how everything fits together for the first time.
- A sleeping pad and sleeping bag for each.  This time of year, sleeping bag warmth doesn't much matter- you won't freeze.  So, feel free to pick a light/compact one.  Foam pads or inflatable pads would be fine.  A sweatshirt suffices as a pillow.
- A small flashlight or headlamp with new batteries.  The way Cree technology has advanced in the last 10 years, I see no reason to get anything other than an LED flashlight.  A couple bucks for a cheap one would do.
- Food/water.  If you want hot food and simplicity for your first time out, you can usually find some military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) on Craigslist.  Otherwise, picnicky stuff is fine.  Cooking something over a fire together is fun.  If you do the State Park option, you'll probably have a fire grate at the campsite, so you can "grill out" as long as you're able to make a fire. Sealed granola bar type stuff is grand.  Even though bears aren't a worry in your part of Ohio, I'd keep food outside your tent as a rule.  A cup of coffee or hot cocoa around a fire has a certain romance about it.
- A roll of toilet paper and a trowel... unless you go to a State Park, in which case there would be rudimentary bathrooms.
- Backpacks if you're planning on hiking.  For a first time, you may want to just camp in a designated campground that you can drive to, and thus you wouldn't need big packs to haul all your gear.
- Clothes.  Regardless of how many days I'm going to be out, I take the clothes I'm wearing + 1 extra complete set, and a rainjacket or rainsuit.
- A cell phone.  Turn it off.  Resolve not to turn it on except for a quasi-emergency. You'll get cell service just about anywhere, and it's a nice comfort to know it's there.
- Something to start a fire.  Matches + dry paper or a firestarter (for extra Mustachian points, I make my own with old paper egg cartons, dryer lint, and wax.  Google "How to make firestarter" if you want).  Then you'll just need to collect downed branches to make a fire.
- A camera

3. I know this might not be welcomed advice if you're going to be with your boyfriend, but avoiding bugs means avoiding scented stuff- shampoos, deodorant, perfume, etc. will all increase the number of bites you get.  If you can wear long sleeves and pants, you may be ok without bugspray.  If you really need to not get a single bite, all the studies show that bug spray with DEET is most effective (there's no gain in getting more than 30% DEET, according to the studies, so no need to get the pure stuff).  It does smell like chemicals.  Another option is to wash your camping clothes in Permethrin.  In the camping section at any Meijer/Walmart, etc. they probably sell bottles of the stuff with instructions.  I don't think there's any noticeable odor with Permethrin, and there's no real concern with toxicity as there is with DEET (there's been some question of chronic DEET use causing neurological problems).

4. Two final thoughts:
- Is there another couple you could go with?  Especially someone with camping experience?  It may kill the romance a bit, but everything is less intimidating with a bigger group.  And, you can, of course, pitch separate tents.
-Just remember that you're in the midwest in summer.  Even if your tent blew away and it rained all night... the worst that will happen is you'll be a bit uncomfortable (and make some awesome memories that will generate laughter for decades).  There are no bears or wolves to get you.  You're not going to die from exposure or anything.  So, go do it. 

skyrefuge

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2012, 10:40:51 AM »
1) Where's a good place to go camping within driving distance of the central Ohio area? Hocking Hills is nearby but I used to live in the area, so that's a little boring for me. I don't mind a little road trippin' out of state but we don't want the trip to be all driving. I've been told there are great places in the Michigan area, any specific recommendations though?

Ha, just a few weeks ago, I drove 400 miles from Chicago for a weekend in the Hocking Hills, because a friend from Central Pennsylvania and I determined it was the best outdoors-place between the two of us where we could meet.  I was surprised that I had never even heard of the area before then, especially since it seems to be the most well-known outdoors-y area in all of Ohio.  So it's funny to hear you say "meh, the Hocking Hills are lame".  :-)  I can say that there's really no area as good as that if you go west until you hit South Dakota, or north until you hit the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  For my tastes (I like varied topography), I'd say from your area, continuing southeast towards the Appalachians is your best bet if you want to go past the Hocking Hills.  But really, I don't think there's any need to go further than the Hocking Hills, especially for your first trip.  So much of the camping experience is micro-local, where the particular campground and even campsite define the feel of your stay, so even if you're familiar with the general area, the actual park/campground/campsite will be plenty new and fresh to you.

And for your first trip you *want* something fairly familiar anyway.  Once you get the hang of things, and the "camping" part of camping becomes routine, THEN it might be worth traveling further to explore more unfamiliar areas.  I'd suggest picking one of the nearby state parks (Hocking Hills, Tar Hollow) and just going for it.

arebelspy's recommendation of going with experienced camping friends is an excellent one, and probably the fastest way to learn the basics, but certainly don't let the lack of such friends stop you.  Most state parks have all kinds of civilized facilities (bathrooms, showers, camp stores with almost everything you'd need), and even in the worst possible catastrophe, you have a car you can take refuge/leave in, so there's not much to fear.

So yeah, totally go, and don't wuss out with a cabin.  Even if you bumble along and don't end up with the world's awesomest campfire, it will still make you feel like SUCH a badass.  Especially when you see that the majority of other "campers" are holed up in their giant RVs that are squashing more nature than they are revealing.

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2012, 10:51:46 AM »
Ooh, check this out, from the Ohio State Parks website: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/overnightfacilities/camping/camping101/tabid/21592/Default.aspx
Quote
Sign Up to Win a Free Weekend of Camping 101 @ Delaware State Park, June 22-24

Ohio State Parks, in partnership with The North Face, is sponsoring a "First-Time Camper" weekend to 10 lucky people This free program will offer instruction on how to camp, from setting up the tent to cooking over a fire Each winner will be able to bring up to 3 family members or friends Just fill out the form below and tell us why you want to participate Winners will be selected on June 1, 2012

A great first-time camping education, and it's FREE!  I know you can write an awesome entry involving Mustachianism that will win you one of the slots!

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2012, 11:51:55 AM »
We went to Chain 'O Lakes state park in northern Indiana last year, and it was a blast. Lots of trails, 5 connected lakes to paddle around (there are cheap boat rentals there, think canoes, kayaks, paddle boats....whatever fits your fancy) and really nice campsites. And there is a campground store, in case you forget something super important, but don't rely on that because the prices are STEEP! But they do have cheap coffee for the morning, if you are a coffee drinker.

ShavenLlama

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2012, 12:24:38 PM »
Camping is fun and good for you for getting interested! You've probably looked up how much stuff costs, but here are some cheap ideas:

Food- We like the dried tortellinis from Barilla, from any grocery store. If you have a means to heat water, you can make these.
Boil-in-a-bag eggs: Crack an egg into a ziplock, add your flavorings (diced bell peppers, chorizo, whatever) and then squish it all up. When your pot of water is boiling, just float these guys in the water. They'll cook up and you can put the finished product into a tortilla and call it a breakfast burrito.
The new-fangled bags of tuna and chicken (next to the cans of tuna and chicken) are awesome for camping, and again just throw some in a tortilla with some Baby-Bel cheese. Those cheeses are great because if they aren't perfectly refrigerated, they're still good.
If you want a super fancy first dinner (assuming you're car camping, but I've done this in the back country), you can make some meaty spaghetti sauce at home and freeze it. By the time you get where you're going, it's probably defrosted.
Just think outside the camp-food aisle and you'll eat like a king! backpacker.com also has great recipe ideas with real food in mind.

TAKE TOILET PAPER. Even if they have some at the site, it's probably 1/2 ply and 100grit.
I take a roll of TP and stick it in a gallon ziplock bag, then get some clothesline and poke it through the bag on the edges and through the roll inside. Make it long enough to hang from your neck. Yes, you look like a dork. But a dork with a clean, happy butt. Also it makes it easy to grab what you need without getting everything wet and dirty.

There's no shame in taking an inflatable bed car camping. I got the cheapest one Target had. And make sure you get 2 twins versus the queen! You can push them together, and you won't get bounced out of bed every time your BF gets up or shifts.

Have fun, and report back!

ShavenLlama

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2012, 12:31:02 PM »
And don't forget to put your food away!

Once I was out with some "experienced campers" who insisted that tucking the coolers of food under a bench was good enough. I'm sure the raccoons who ate all of our food agreed.

If there's a box, use it. Otherwise put your stuff in the car. Don't take ANY food into your tent. Just because there's no bears where you are now doesn't mean you won't go someplace in the future with no bears. You don't want that smell in your tent.

Parizade

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2012, 02:08:14 PM »
Just because there's no bears where you are now doesn't mean you won't go someplace in the future with no bears. You don't want that smell in your tent.

A woman I know left some food in her tent, thinking "no bears, why not?" When she came back to her tent, a chipmunk had chewed a hole in the tent to get to the food, ate the food, then pooped all over everything. Pretty much ruined her trip.

arebelspy

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2012, 02:15:25 PM »
Just because there's no bears where you are now doesn't mean you won't go someplace in the future with no bears. You don't want that smell in your tent.

A woman I know left some food in her tent, thinking "no bears, why not?" When she came back to her tent, a chipmunk had chewed a hole in the tent to get to the food, ate the food, then pooped all over everything. Pretty much ruined her trip.

Ruined her trip, maybe, but it made my day.

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gooki

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2012, 05:00:06 AM »
Just because there's no bears where you are now doesn't mean you won't go someplace in the future with no bears. You don't want that smell in your tent.

A woman I know left some food in her tent, thinking "no bears, why not?" When she came back to her tent, a chipmunk had chewed a hole in the tent to get to the food, ate the food, then pooped all over everything. Pretty much ruined her trip.

We don't have dangerous animals in our country, but have awoken to a possum riffling through our food that we'd stashed in the tent.

grantmeaname

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2012, 09:54:04 AM »
if you run into any extreme weather (a lot of rain or unbearable heat or cold), camping can be anything but relaxing.
I'm not saying don't bring a raincoat, but that should be about the last of your worries in central Ohio in May.

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2012, 06:16:45 PM »
It doesn't look like anyone mentioned it, but it makes a BIG difference whether you are talking "car camping" vs backpacking.

There are lots of camp grounds where you drive up to a designated parking space on your lot, and you have to walk between 0 and 1000 ft to get to where you "camp"
There are others where you park in a central parking lot, and hike 1-10 miles.

What you pack/buy is completely different for each one. 
In your case, probably the car route will be easier / more comfortable. 
Since you don't have to carry stuff any real distance, you can get away with a big easy pop-up style tent (that you basically take out of its bag, throw it, and its set up), a big 2 burner portable stove, canned food, whatever you want. 
Also, the tent is optional, because you can always sleep in the car.  (Actually, depending on weather/bugs, the tent is option regardless).  You'll want a pad of some kind (roll-up foam, thermarest, or air mattress) regardless.

If you want real nature/camping experience, you go for the second, but that means buying/bringing lighter smaller gear that you can carry, which is more expensive and less comfortable - 2-person backpacking tent, one burner stove, therma-rest-light, dehydrated food.  You could even need a water purifier.

Make sure you know which type of campgrounds you are looking at before you make reservations.

Other than that, don't over think it.  If you are going for a couple days and not going hundreds of miles into the remote wilderness, as long as you have food and water, there isn't much that can go wrong.

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2012, 10:20:49 AM »
Yes, for your first time, I'd go car camping (with facilities) and go somewhere close by just in case you need to go home for any reason.  We camped with our son for the first time at a reservoir only 2 miles from our house.  It was really fun and we were close to home just in case.  Many camping areas are pretty fancy, with nice toilets and showers, etc.

Once you've done a test trip, go camping for real.

The best part about camping is the campfire, so make sure you're allowed to make one.  Don't forget a lighter.  Sometimes you have to bring your own wood too.  Check the temperatures in advance and dress accordingly.  Put all your food away in the car (or sometimes there's a bear box on site provided) - do not store food in your tent.

We actually recently went camping and spent one of the nights in the van (all 3 of us) due to high winds and it was really comfy.  You might not even need a tent, although having a tent is way more fun.

I know people that don't even really cook when they camp, they just bring pre-made food and eat that.   MMM is our camping cook and he loves to cook things up on the fire or on the camp stove, but camping can be pretty luxurious if you want.  You might want to ease into it and start with something simple and then move to something more complicated (but potentially way more fun) once you get the hang of it.

Burt's bees has an insect repellent that I find works pretty well (although bugs don't really like me much to begin with..)

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Re: Mustachian Camping Advice? (Midwest Edition?)
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2012, 05:47:45 PM »
Don't go out and buy a tent and sleeping bags.  Rent if you want to go right away, but you'll be more comfortable with a tarp and quilt setup, perhaps with hammocks.  I'd read one of Ray Jardine's books for some ideas on making your own gear.  Virtually everything you need for backpacking can be made at home, and the result will be higher quality and lighter than what you'd buy.