Author Topic: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking  (Read 10455 times)

Metta

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Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« on: December 15, 2014, 05:50:09 AM »
Both my husband and I love to hike but he is a creature of comfort and likes to end his days of hiking with a shower and a soft hotel bed. I've persuaded him to tent camp with me and I'm looking for tips from my fellow mustachians on how to make this a pleasurable experience for him. The tent and sleeping bags are taken care of. (We have sleeping bags from our long-ago backpacking lives that are in excellent shape and we have a nice tent.)

We'll be camping and hiking in the high desert of New Mexico. It is a trial of sorts. He is giving me a few days of his life in one of the most beautiful places in the world to prove to him that he can be happy outdoors. I grew up camping and hiking but after marrying him the camping part of that equation down-shifted. I'm out of practice. However, this is my opportunity to prove to him that we can enjoy tent camping just as much (if not more) than motoring from motel to motel, so I want this to be as perfect an experience for him as possible.

Since showers are extremely important to him, I've located some campsites in New Mexico with showers.

Good tent -- Check!
Good sleeping bags -- Check!
Showers nearby -- Check!

What am I missing? Vast amounts, surely. I've started reading up on camping but I want to get the Mustachian perspective as well. Give me your best tips! Help me make this a great experience for my husband!
« Last Edit: December 15, 2014, 05:56:38 AM by Metta »

BurquenaAbroad

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2014, 06:09:32 AM »
This is a bit frivolous, but something that we've done on long hikes that helps my mood a LOT is to pack little treats/surprises. My dude once packed Christmas to celebrate on a week-long hike with his friends: crackers, a flask of brandy, a short string of battery-powered lights, and neckties to dress up.

Hide a few light weight pick-me-ups in your pack for when moral is faltering, and your thoughtfulness (and the blood sugar boost) will go a long way.  Tiny bottles of alcohol (+1000 to port) and individually-wrapped sweets are my favorites, but this could also be silly games/toys, savory snacks, etc. Ask him to pack a surprise, too, so he can get excited about it as well.

Also, mentally-stimulating activities for when you've been hiking too long and your mind starts to wander off. If your husband is the type who likes challenges or games, create some ongoing goals, such as Best Photo Awards (best photo of a tree, best photo of your SO, best photo of an animal, etc), or First Person to Spot (blank) Wins. We've also spent long hikes memorizing song lyrics and poems (wrote them down on a slip of paper ahead of time). 

MrsPete

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2014, 06:22:53 AM »
Ah, we have the same comfort level!  I enjoy tent camping and cooking over a campfire -- but I want a real shower. 

Buy a comfortable tent.  If it's just the two of you, make it a four-person tent so you're not crowded. 
Buy a good mattress pad.  Nothing ruins your mood like a bad night's sleep. 

Do most of your cooking prep at home in your own kitchen; for example, chop all your vegetables and pack them in a ziplock bag.  Measure out your spices and encapsulate them in a bit of foil. 
Pack plenty of good stuff:  S'mores, trail mix, plenty of beverages. 


Alex321

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2014, 06:28:16 AM »
Car camping? Air mattress(es).

MayDay

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2014, 06:31:20 AM »
My parents are in their fifties and have found that a small cot greatly increases their camping enjoyment as they age.

I suggest keeping dinners simple. You'll be tired by then. Go with one pot meals like chili- you can make it ahead, freeze it, and just heat it up to eat.

mak1277

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2014, 06:50:01 AM »
Are you car camping or basecamping?  Or are you planning to be backpacking where you'll be carrying everything as you hike?  Pretty substantial difference, and I might suggest basecamping if this is a trial run.

I'd also suggest, if possible, camping at an established campground.  That way, you can ease him into it by giving him privy or outhouse (not making him dig a cathole)....maybe a picnic table (not making him sit on the ground)...but still have him sleep in a tent on the ground and get the absolute joy of waking up in the wild.

lakemom

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2014, 06:56:04 AM »
Since you are going to be in a campground with your car I'd suggest an air mattress and comfy folding chairs.  A decent 2 burner camp stove and the utensils/pans needed to create good meals (fry pan and sauce pan at the least).  My guess is if you provide him with the hot showers and comfy bed, he'll love the rest.  Nothing can compare to sitting around the campfire sipping a glass of wine and relaxing after a fun day of hiking through the wilderness.

starbuck

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2014, 06:59:01 AM »
(I assume you are car camping.)

Comfy camp chairs! Ones with a back and arms to relax in after a day hike. And if campfires are permitted in your area, definitely a big campfire. It's the favorite pasttime for the camping men in my life. They silently jockey for the opportunity to tend the fire (aka poke with a stick and make even bigger.)

I also like a big breakfast + fresh brewed coffee when car camping. We usually camp when it's colder out so this makes me actually get out of the tent in the morning.

Something that is a nice touch too is sturdy plates and silverware. I hate trying to eat out of my lap on a paper plate or some equally flimsy plastic crap. Just use real (not easily breakable) utensils and dishes. Much less frustrating to eat.

And headlamps will make doing and finding things in the dark much easier. Hands free!

DanielleS

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2014, 08:54:55 AM »
I love camping! I camped out all of my adult life, from the lovely northeast (where I grew up) to the vast southwest (where I moved).

1. The biggest comfort-extender is a thick mattress pad or air mattress. They both mask stones/sticks on the ground, and also lift you up off the cold ground in colder weather. In the case of an air mattress, in really cold weather, putting a mattress or blanket UNDERNEATH yourself/over the air mattress is crucial for staying warm!

2. A tarp laid underneath your tent is a cheap way to avoid snags and holes, extending the life of your tent by several years.

3. A small hand broom and dustpan set sounds silly, but it only takes a few moments to sweep up the tent after setting it up and makes the inside so much more comfortable! No burrs, stones, etc. underfoot, if you chuck the shoes outside.

4. As was said before, light after dark is really important. I have a Coleman battery-powered lantern for setting on the picnic table, and flashlights. Other people like the headlamps for walking around after dark. Each person should have their own separate light for going to the restroom after dark!

5. I didn't like staying at campsites with showers, as I preferred to be out in the woods more. But I DETEST staying dirty! This means I took a few essentials like a small bar of soap, a washcloth, and a bowl which I used to give myself sponge baths at the end of each day of hiking/whatever, and to wash my hair at least a few times. This is another option. I also made sure my tent was tall enough that I could comfortably stand up inside it, so I didn't have to contort :D

6. Foil cooking is awesome for minimal cleanup. My now DH and I, when we were still gf/bf, did a weeklong camping trip in western California and all over Arizona. We stayed at a different place each night, hence didn't have much time to cook elaborate meals. I used foil for cooking food, either on the campfire or on my Coleman propane 2-burner. Potatoes, eggplant, tomato sauce, onions cut into rings, all cooked in foil and served with bread (also heated up in foil) was one of the best dinners, and like anything else served outside, really good.

7. French press for coffee! I used this for years and it was IMO the best for camping. I just pre-ground all the coffee I thought I'd use for the trip an stored it in a container.

8. Pack more food than you'll think you'll need. As you are a camper you probably already know this! People get so ravenous when outside all day/night. Ditto to the suggestions about packing treats/surprises. Chocolates are always a mood booster when morale is low. I always packed some wine, obviously the boxed wines are the easiest to haul around camping.

I hope you both have a fabulous time. We're also headed to NM in a little bit and I can't wait. It's one of the most beautiful places in this country.

Indio

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2014, 09:11:49 AM »
I've done a lot of camping at national parks and other campgrounds. When you are picking your tent site make sure you figure out where the bathrooms and water sources are located. The farther you have to go when it is dark the more inconvenient it seems.
Bonfires make it special so bring fatwood and newspaper to get it started easily. Most campsites don't let you bring in wood so be prepared for that.
I agree with everyones suggestions about air mattress, food etc. when I want to make food easy, I buy boxed soups. After all, doing dishes is not the highlight of the camping adventure.

Bob W

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2014, 09:15:24 AM »
After being forced by my wife to camp for something like 45 days a couple of years ago.  I can relate to this.   It isn't the showers for me it is the hassle.   We got to the point where our SUV is packed to the max. (thankfully this year is was 2 nights)

So my feeling is less is better. 

Tent, sleeping bags,  inflatable mattress,  water, wine or vodka(something that doesn't require ice). 

IMHO I would only bring meals or meal prep stuff that doesn't require coolers or ice.  Cans of chili, ravioli or those no fridge required, off the shelf, premade meals.  Cold drinks are nice but the hassle of coolers and ice is a major headache. 

Having to cook while camping sucks in my opinion.  I much prefer donuts for breakfast,  tuna sandwiches for lunch and premade stuff for dinner.   If you must cook try a very small stove.

My favorite thing to pack is Duraflame logs (no other brand compares)  You light it and kick back with your Merlot.   A box of 9 will set you back 20 bucks but you won't need to hassle with buying and hauling firewood at the campground.   

It is also nice to camp within 20 miles of a restaurant.   That way you can have the camping experience without bringing the entire kitchen in order to make bacon and eggs with hash browns. 

Bring some books to read --- leave the tabs and cell phones turned off in the car.   

Oh and in my opinion -- It is nice when the wife pays extra special attention to me while camping.  It tends to reinforce the desire to camp again.  lol

Rural

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2014, 09:58:41 AM »
Car camping, right? An air mattress, and a pad under it if it's at all cold (air matresses provide no insulation from ground temperature). The older I get, the more I find I need both of these.


This may seem obvious, but if he uses something like a pillow for his knees at home, he'll want it camping, too.


For cooking, unless you're just putting foil packets in the coals (which works very well), plan for something fireproof to set your camp stove on. Cooking on the ground quits being an adventure after about ten minutes.

Metta

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2014, 11:45:56 AM »
These are some great suggestions! I should clarify that I did indeed mean car-camping/base-camping instead of backpacking. Specifically, we are going to drive to a campsite, set up the tent, and spend our days on nearby trails, returning to the tent to sleep and eat.

I am not sure that I will ever be able to get him to go backpacking with me again since he doesn't like being wet, cold, and lost and I provided him with many of those experiences when we were both young. He is more sensitive to discomfort of this sort than I am. (On the other hand, he also runs ultra-marathons so it seems to me that he is ok with discomfort associated with action but once he stops moving he wants to be comfortable.)

We spent the last year looking at tents and just bought the Mountainsmith Equinox 4 person tent, which looks like an excellent tent. We have been waiting for a really good sale and it dropped in our laps yesterday. Clearly it would have been more mustachian to get a used tent, but I am trying to ensure that my husband feels very pampered and comfortable and a new tent is part of that effort. Otherwise we will never leave hotels. We also bought new pads since our 30-year old pads (never very good) had lost their plumpness (and my husband hated them when they were new). We are not sure about air mattresses. I see some here recommend them and others do not. Also cots are an open question. I'd love to hear more opinions on cots.

Hide a few light weight pick-me-ups in your pack for when moral is faltering, and your thoughtfulness (and the blood sugar boost) will go a long way.  Tiny bottles of alcohol (+1000 to port) and individually-wrapped sweets are my favorites, but this could also be silly games/toys, savory snacks, etc. Ask him to pack a surprise, too, so he can get excited about it as well.

That's a great idea! My husband loves Port so perhaps a good bottle will be just the thing. Typically we geocache when we hike in new places but perhaps I need to find some new games for us. I'll think on that. He does love games.

Do most of your cooking prep at home in your own kitchen; for example, chop all your vegetables and pack them in a ziplock bag.  Measure out your spices and encapsulate them in a bit of foil. 

These sound like good suggestions. I'm trying to wrap my mind around cooking for a campsite. My past experience was in backpacking. So we carried gorp and things we could rehydrate with hot water in our individual cups. I know that this is too rough for my husband who will need to have tasty food prepared for him. I think I will need some sort of stove since New Mexico is high desert and I know that there are often restrictions on lighting campfires there. But I'm not sure what to get.

Something that is a nice touch too is sturdy plates and silverware. I hate trying to eat out of my lap on a paper plate or some equally flimsy plastic crap. Just use real (not easily breakable) utensils and dishes. Much less frustrating to eat.

And headlamps will make doing and finding things in the dark much easier. Hands free!

We have a set of sturdy plastic plates and bowls from Target that we keep in our car kit along with a cutting board, silverware, and a set of good knives. We use them when we eat in hotel rooms. (We generally prepare our own food on the road. It saves us from having to find a vegan restaurant.) I'm assuming that they will work just as well for camping. Though of course it is easier to wash them in a hotel sink than it will be in the field.

I'd also suggest, if possible, camping at an established campground.  That way, you can ease him into it by giving him privy or outhouse (not making him dig a cathole)....maybe a picnic table (not making him sit on the ground)...but still have him sleep in a tent on the ground and get the absolute joy of waking up in the wild.

I am definitely going to make sure I choose an established campground with amenities for him. I don't want to scare him off this idea. :)

I've done a lot of camping at national parks and other campgrounds. When you are picking your tent site make sure you figure out where the bathrooms and water sources are located. The farther you have to go when it is dark the more inconvenient it seems.
Bonfires make it special so bring fatwood and newspaper to get it started easily. Most campsites don't let you bring in wood so be prepared for that.
I agree with everyones suggestions about air mattress, food etc. when I want to make food easy, I buy boxed soups. After all, doing dishes is not the highlight of the camping adventure.

Good points! I like the boxed soup idea. After all, what could be more comforting than hot soup?


Metta

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2014, 11:53:00 AM »
1. The biggest comfort-extender is a thick mattress pad or air mattress. They both mask stones/sticks on the ground, and also lift you up off the cold ground in colder weather. In the case of an air mattress, in really cold weather, putting a mattress or blanket UNDERNEATH yourself/over the air mattress is crucial for staying warm!

2. A tarp laid underneath your tent is a cheap way to avoid snags and holes, extending the life of your tent by several years.

3. A small hand broom and dustpan set sounds silly, but it only takes a few moments to sweep up the tent after setting it up and makes the inside so much more comfortable! No burrs, stones, etc. underfoot, if you chuck the shoes outside.

4. As was said before, light after dark is really important. I have a Coleman battery-powered lantern for setting on the picnic table, and flashlights. Other people like the headlamps for walking around after dark. Each person should have their own separate light for going to the restroom after dark!

5. I didn't like staying at campsites with showers, as I preferred to be out in the woods more. But I DETEST staying dirty! This means I took a few essentials like a small bar of soap, a washcloth, and a bowl which I used to give myself sponge baths at the end of each day of hiking/whatever, and to wash my hair at least a few times. This is another option. I also made sure my tent was tall enough that I could comfortably stand up inside it, so I didn't have to contort :D

6. Foil cooking is awesome for minimal cleanup. My now DH and I, when we were still gf/bf, did a weeklong camping trip in western California and all over Arizona. We stayed at a different place each night, hence didn't have much time to cook elaborate meals. I used foil for cooking food, either on the campfire or on my Coleman propane 2-burner. Potatoes, eggplant, tomato sauce, onions cut into rings, all cooked in foil and served with bread (also heated up in foil) was one of the best dinners, and like anything else served outside, really good.

7. French press for coffee! I used this for years and it was IMO the best for camping. I just pre-ground all the coffee I thought I'd use for the trip an stored it in a container.

8. Pack more food than you'll think you'll need. As you are a camper you probably already know this! People get so ravenous when outside all day/night. Ditto to the suggestions about packing treats/surprises. Chocolates are always a mood booster when morale is low. I always packed some wine, obviously the boxed wines are the easiest to haul around camping.

I hope you both have a fabulous time. We're also headed to NM in a little bit and I can't wait. It's one of the most beautiful places in this country.

Thanks for these suggestions! They are all good. We have an alternative down featherbed sort of thing that we put on the futon when my mother visits to make her more comfortable. I've been considering bringing it to lay over the pads and under the sleeping bags. Is that a good idea or a bad idea in your opinion? I'd of course never do this when backpacking but camping seems different.

Your foil food sounds delicious! Does the Coleman two burner stove work well for you?

My husband suggests we try one of the solar showers (like this: http://www.rei.com/product/868317/seattle-sports-pvc-free-sun-shower). He thinks this might work for him. Have you tried something like this?

Imustacheyouaquestion

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2014, 11:57:05 AM »
+1 to good mattress pads and a nice pillow.

- Pack of wet wipes to clean your hands/face before eating.
- Camping chairs for sitting around the fire
- Fresh socks and/or a pair of flip flops (something to change into after you're done with the hiking part)
- Headlamps so getting up at night doesn't suck
- Card games or something simple to do at night. Book of star constellations...something you can't do in a hotel!!
- Hot coffee in the morning

Bob W

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2014, 12:32:48 PM »
Me thinks this list is growing and growing.  If you end up bringing up all this stuff your car/SUV will be completely packed.

All the fun has been sucked out for me now as I can imagine endless packing, unpacking, setting up, cleaning up, dealing with coolers of food and ice, tearing down,  resetting up the tent at home to clean, unpacking at home, cleaning all the stuff,  organizing it and storing and maintaining it.   (remember,  I'm pretty experienced with this as I spent some 45 days camping a couple of years ago)

Yick -- sign me up for the hotel with the history channel and restaurant next door.  We can hike all day if you like.

A funny story ---- I told my wife I was burnt out on camping.  She loved it.  It appears I was doing most of the packing, unpacking, fire starting etc.   So I told her I would camp with her as much as she liked as long as she did most of the packing, set up and unpacking.   

So now when she says "we should go camping Friday and Saturday.  It is so nice out."   I say great "let me know when we are packed up and ready to go."   Hasn't happened.   It appears she was having all the fun camping while I was doing most of the work as her personal sherpa. 

So if you have someone that is that reluctant to camp --- My suggestion is do all or a majority of the work.   That way he won't feel like he needs to go back to work to get a break from camping as I often did.   

To be honest the last two times we "camped" we rented the RV on the campground for $50 a night and it was wonderful.   


Dee18

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2014, 01:25:57 PM »
When I traveled with a reluctant camper in Alaska, I found some compromising made the 2 weeks perfect.  We'd camp four nights, then stay at a B & B or hotel a night or two.  Also, we occasionally went out for dinner when camping , such as when we were just a few miles outside of Anchorage. Not as Mustachian as pure camping, but we're older and FI.

GuitarStv

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2014, 01:28:28 PM »
Sleeping bags that say 'good to -40' might keep you alive at -40 . . . but you won't be happy.

sol

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2014, 01:47:36 PM »
When trying to encourage a partner to enjoy any activity that involves sleeping together, I know of one really good way to make it more fun.

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2014, 01:56:58 PM »
A comfortable pillow. Lots better than trying to get comfortable on a mound of damp clothes or your shoes.

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2014, 02:07:44 PM »
I've used the solar shower kits...they're awesome if you have enough solar gain to heat them. Also second the use of headlamps and inflatable mats under your sleeping bag. I think chocolate is one of the essential food groups for camping, as well as alcohol. Massage oil is nice too....although olive oil or coconut oil will work in a pinch.

The sky is the limit with car camping versus backpacking as carrying weight isn't an issue, so I suggest a Dutch oven: you can BAKE in it or make slow cook kinds of things like stew or chili. I made some cheese and onion biscuits at 9,000ft once that people talked about for years. (we were horse camping...but horses don't seem to mind hauling Dutch ovens)


DanielleS

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2014, 07:33:10 PM »

Thanks for these suggestions! They are all good. We have an alternative down featherbed sort of thing that we put on the futon when my mother visits to make her more comfortable. I've been considering bringing it to lay over the pads and under the sleeping bags. Is that a good idea or a bad idea in your opinion? I'd of course never do this when backpacking but camping seems different.

Your foil food sounds delicious! Does the Coleman two burner stove work well for you?

My husband suggests we try one of the solar showers (like this: http://www.rei.com/product/868317/seattle-sports-pvc-free-sun-shower). He thinks this might work for him. Have you tried something like this?

I think the featherbed is a perfect option if it has a removable cover to wash afterward!

I love the 2-burner stove, it's small enough to easily set up, yet sturdy. The little propane bottles are sold in a lot of places, as well.

I've never tried the solar showers but I have heard other people like them very much. A long time ago I camped with a friend who used hers all the time. They do get water hotter than you would expect.

re: packing/unpacking/too much stuff comments - when we went on our weeklong camping trip, we did it in my convertible. If you pack smart then it's not that bad. My DH and I split duties, e.g. he set up the tent while I built the fire and cooked the meal, and when we tore down he did the tent and its contents while I did food/dishes/camp chairs etc. I wouldn't be too worried. The point is, IMO, to choose those comforts that will make the most impact on your happiness and don't take stuff you aren't sure you'll use :)

kimmarg

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #22 on: December 15, 2014, 07:41:48 PM »
Folding chairs for the campsite

Coffee percolator - bought one for $20 at Walmart years ago, as a coffee drinker it makes my morning. Don't forget creamer as appropriate!

bogart

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #23 on: December 15, 2014, 08:14:24 PM »
Another fan of the two-burner Coleman stove here.

Quote
I like the boxed soup idea. After all, what could be more comforting than hot soup?

Per my husband, definitely a good quality well-cooked steak (v. easy to do in a skillet on a two-burner Coleman), but YMMV.

I no longer tent camp with my DH, because he is not a tent-camper.  We've gone the RV (trailer) route.  All the comforts of home in a box on wheels, and as a big part of what I like about camping is being close to the great outdoors and not having to drive anywhere once we've reached our destination, this works for us.  If the tent camping thing doesn't grab your DH and you want to explore other options.

I have used the solar showers, and they (also) work fine if you pour hot water into them, e.g. from a tap (if available) or after heating it up on a Coleman stove (there's the stove again).  But -- why bother if you're staying in a campground with amenities?  Note, too, that if you're car camping in a place with decent sunlight, you already have one of the best solar-heated options available (the car).  I have showered under (quite) hot water poured from two liter bottles kept in my car when it was parked in the sunlight before, no (other) "solar water heater" needed.  Sounds like more roughing it than your DH is seeking, though.

Decent coffee.  Real dairy product to use with it (your choice, milk or however much fat you prefer).  Bacon and eggs for breakfast.

In this day and age, I totally skip the books and go for the tablet/Kindle.  Way more portable and easier to use in the dark.

MrsPete

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2014, 05:42:38 AM »
I'd suggest an air mattress and comfy folding chairs.
I agree that camp chairs around the fire are well worth the hauling, but you can do so much better than an air mattress.  An air mattress provides no warmth from underneath and no support.  Instead, look into a closed-foam mattress pad.  I bought some fantastic ones -- can it have been two decades ago? -- at Sam's Warehouse, and we're still using them.  No blowing them up, and 80% as comfortable as my excellent at-home mattress. 
I also like a big breakfast + fresh brewed coffee when car camping. We usually camp when it's colder out so this makes me actually get out of the tent in the morning.
Yes, food is a big part of camping!
4. As was said before, light after dark is really important. I have a Coleman battery-powered lantern for setting on the picnic table, and flashlights. Other people like the headlamps for walking around after dark. Each person should have their own separate light for going to the restroom after dark!
Disagree.  If you're in a public campground -- and we usually are -- you'll have some streetlights, and we find that to be enough.  We find that flashlights tend to emphasize the darkness outside their beam.  If you allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness, the streetlights are usually enough. 
I've done a lot of camping at national parks and other campgrounds. When you are picking your tent site make sure you figure out where the bathrooms and water sources are located. The farther you have to go when it is dark the more inconvenient it seems.
Picking your sight at a public campground isn't a one-size-fits-all choice.  If you have young kids, you want to pick a spot close to the bath house -- first, so you'll have a short walk to the bathhouse; later, so you can keep an eye on them while they walk by themselves.  However, camping near the bathhouse has "a cost", and that's loss of privacy.  Why?  Because everyone else who is going to the bath house will walk right by your tent. 
After being forced by my wife to camp for something like 45 days a couple of years ago.  I can relate to this.   It isn't the showers for me it is the hassle.   We got to the point where our SUV is packed to the max. (thankfully this year is was 2 nights)
I can't say I enjoy packing, but we don't pack a whole SUV of stuff. 

We have a metal "camp box" that holds all our cooking gear.  When we're done with a camping trip, we wash everything and put the box back in the shed until our next trip.  Just pop it in the car. 
We keep our tent in a plastic box.  Just pop it in the car. 
Keeping these things organized cuts down on the work of preparing for a camping trip. 
To be honest the last two times we "camped" we rented the RV on the campground for $50 a night and it was wonderful.
One of our retirement goals is the purchase of a teardrop camper.  Right now it wouldn't do, but once the kids are all out of the house, one of these little two-person campers will be great for us.  One of the big reasons we want this is that we can keep it packed up, ready to go:  Sheets on the mattress, cooking equipment in the kitchen.  I think we'll use it constantly. 

Bob W

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2014, 08:52:11 AM »

Here is our favorite campsite just 15 miles from our house -- http://www.mothernaturesriverfrontretreat.com/   The tent in the picture is where we set up tent usually.  The RVs are up the hill at $50 a night.  Nicest shower houses in the Ozarks.   When we were hardcore camping we would set up for several days and come straight there from work.

There is a little store at the top of hill and they have great make your own pizza. 


Jouer

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2014, 12:33:38 PM »
My wife and I love our solar shower. It's been great for us in all kinds of camping scenarios in Canada and USA - mostly car camping. I'd actually prefer it to some of the showering facilities I've seen at campsites.

We also have a battery powered light/fan (that we call the chandelier) that came in handy during 40 degree (Celsius) days in Tennessee. I hardly call our camping trips 'roughing it' any more. But I still get to fry bologna and eggs over an open fire for breakfast so I still get to call it camping.  ;-)

choppingwood

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #27 on: December 16, 2014, 08:05:31 PM »
When I turned 50, I upgraded my camping equipment, to make it much more comfortable:
1. Quality, thick air mattress.
2. Battery-operated air pump, instead of my lungs.
3. Switched from white gas run campstove to propane-run stove with grill (I hate the propane, love the grill)
4. Chairs with padding.
5. Battery-run lantern, without any fiddly lighting.
6. Quality food and drink. (Steak and wine.

I'm 60 now, and I still love camping. Nothing like waking up hearing the birds and smelling the fresh air. I've rented an RV and hated the housework.

Milizard

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2014, 08:55:14 PM »
I'm not the best camper (like to bring everything, including the kitchen sink!), but as a funny coincidence, I actually camped in the New Mexico high desert for over a month.  How about a tipi?   www.snowmansion.com.   We spent a week or 2 there.  It's more of a hostel with tipis.

The person I was with was an excellent camper and cook.  We had great, full meals, which made it more tolerable for me.  We camped out on his land on a mesa, in both a backpacking tent, and then an enormous tipi.  Things I didn't like about camping there:  noseeums, fire ants, the cat got bit by a rattlesnake, hauling water for showers, remembering to get the solar shower ready in the morning so it would be warm later, waking up at 5 a.m. having to pee but not wanting to go out into the cold, the damn winds that picked up every afternoon!  We travelled around a bit and camped at some national parks, but they didn't have shower amenities.  It was a bit rough on me, with the lack of bathroom facilities, but fun nonetheless.

Metta

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #29 on: December 21, 2014, 07:01:47 PM »
I'm not the best camper (like to bring everything, including the kitchen sink!), but as a funny coincidence, I actually camped in the New Mexico high desert for over a month.  How about a tipi?   www.snowmansion.com.   We spent a week or 2 there.  It's more of a hostel with tipis.

The person I was with was an excellent camper and cook.  We had great, full meals, which made it more tolerable for me.  We camped out on his land on a mesa, in both a backpacking tent, and then an enormous tipi.  Things I didn't like about camping there:  noseeums, fire ants, the cat got bit by a rattlesnake, hauling water for showers, remembering to get the solar shower ready in the morning so it would be warm later, waking up at 5 a.m. having to pee but not wanting to go out into the cold, the damn winds that picked up every afternoon!  We travelled around a bit and camped at some national parks, but they didn't have shower amenities.  It was a bit rough on me, with the lack of bathroom facilities, but fun nonetheless.

I love the tipi idea! And where better than Taos to be in a tipi?

I'm so sorry to hear that your cat was attacked! Is it ok?

Metta

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #30 on: December 21, 2014, 07:17:47 PM »
Me thinks this list is growing and growing.  If you end up bringing up all this stuff your car/SUV will be completely packed.

All the fun has been sucked out for me now as I can imagine endless packing, unpacking, setting up, cleaning up, dealing with coolers of food and ice, tearing down,  resetting up the tent at home to clean, unpacking at home, cleaning all the stuff,  organizing it and storing and maintaining it.   (remember,  I'm pretty experienced with this as I spent some 45 days camping a couple of years ago)

Yick -- sign me up for the hotel with the history channel and restaurant next door.  We can hike all day if you like.

A funny story ---- I told my wife I was burnt out on camping.  She loved it.  It appears I was doing most of the packing, unpacking, fire starting etc.   So I told her I would camp with her as much as she liked as long as she did most of the packing, set up and unpacking.   

So now when she says "we should go camping Friday and Saturday.  It is so nice out."   I say great "let me know when we are packed up and ready to go."   Hasn't happened.   It appears she was having all the fun camping while I was doing most of the work as her personal sherpa. 

So if you have someone that is that reluctant to camp --- My suggestion is do all or a majority of the work.   That way he won't feel like he needs to go back to work to get a break from camping as I often did.   

To be honest the last two times we "camped" we rented the RV on the campground for $50 a night and it was wonderful.

I've been giving this quite a bit of thought. The way we currently travel is this:

My husband packs a modest backpack with his clothes and packs his laptop into its case. I pack everything else. When we arrive at our destination I unpack everything except his laptop, which he carries carefully and lovingly to the room. Then I cook. When it is time to leave our hotel, I load the car while he pays for the room and gets breakfast. (I'm not much of a breakfast eater.)

We do it this way because I love to travel and packing is sort of exciting to me. And, since I am the one packing I can bring what I want to bring for food prep. He really is not much of a traveller. Merely riding in a car or plane is some sort of hell for him that I really don't understand (and he hates driving), so the least I can do for him is take this hassle away.

I don't actually picture him doing much additional in our camping trips other than helping to pitch the tent and perhaps building a fire. He likes fire and he has very precise ideas on how it must be done. (He is similarly anal about laundry, something that remains a deep mystery to me.)

When we were young I was captivated by the ultra-light backpacking movement and I recall suggesting to him that we could simply live on spirulina and carry a light tarp instead of a tent. So my packing at that point was extremely minimal. Several times we ended up cold and hungry in the mountains, which seemed like an adventure to me but was apparently pretty awful from his perspective. I look back on this as a mistake. Perhaps if I had provided some creature comforts in our backpacking adventures, he would have been more willing to camp and backpack with me.

I say this to explain that I think our situations are somewhat different and probably need different solutions.

Metta

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #31 on: December 21, 2014, 07:23:12 PM »
I really appreciate everyone's tips! My husband and I are working on a plan for the trip. We will probably go in July. I've suggested a shake-out trip to try out the gear in March or April but he seemed unsure. I'll update this thread with what we are thinking of bringing. I can't tell you how much I value the comments here. I take them to my husband and discuss them in great detail. So far his favorite suggestion has been to bring port. :)

Metta

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #32 on: December 21, 2014, 07:24:54 PM »

Here is our favorite campsite just 15 miles from our house -- http://www.mothernaturesriverfrontretreat.com/   The tent in the picture is where we set up tent usually.  The RVs are up the hill at $50 a night.  Nicest shower houses in the Ozarks.   When we were hardcore camping we would set up for several days and come straight there from work.

There is a little store at the top of hill and they have great make your own pizza.

I'm suggesting to my husband that we use this location as a possible shake-out trip for the gear. It looks like a nice place! Thank you!

Bob W

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #33 on: December 21, 2014, 08:48:34 PM »

Here is our favorite campsite just 15 miles from our house -- http://www.mothernaturesriverfrontretreat.com/   The tent in the picture is where we set up tent usually.  The RVs are up the hill at $50 a night.  Nicest shower houses in the Ozarks.   When we were hardcore camping we would set up for several days and come straight there from work.

There is a little store at the top of hill and they have great make your own pizza.

I'm suggesting to my husband that we use this location as a possible shake-out trip for the gear. It looks like a nice place! Thank you!
.      It is in Missouri.  Are you nearbye?    I know all the best and comfy sites in the Ozarks area.  Let me know if you want more info.   I've said it before on this site,  but Missouri is rated number 1 for camping and hiking for a reason.   Let me know.

mm1970

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #34 on: December 22, 2014, 05:01:51 PM »
Car camping? Air mattress(es).
How old are you?
My husband grew up camping, I did not.

Now that we have little kids, I like camping, he's kind of over it.

We had mats - they are okay but not great.
Then we switched to air mattresses, but they would leak after only a year or two.
Last year, we upgraded to camping cots.  They break down to be quite small and are very comfortable.  Definitely better than air mattresses for our aging (40-something) backs.  One of them is better than the other, it doesn't have a seam/ bar in the middle.

The kids sleep on mats.

Aside from that -
a propane cooking stove
some fun snacks that you wouldn't have at home, and ice cold water
a real pillow and warm blanket
we also have a thermoelectric cooler which is really useful on some trips, if we are going place to place

My husband does the packing, so I cook the meals.  I just recently learned to pre-cook and just re-heat.
I tend to go camping with friends to Joshua Tree every year.  They are "pros" and we are "newbies".
Until this year it was always "heat and eat" - instant oatmeal, instant coffee, canned chili, PB&J, raw veggies and fruit.
Part of this is because our children are 8 and 2.  If they were 8 and 6, we could cook more.  Our friends with older children cook more, but they also have a camper van with fridge.

Our most recent solo camping trip (without other families) I pre-made at least one meal, so I'd just heat it up.  So it was tasty and home-cooked, but easy to make.  Best of both worlds.  Fewer dishes is a key.
The most favorite meal of the trip (according to the kids): nachos.  Heat up chili, toss on some cheese to melt, pour over chips, top with guacamole.

I love Taos. Haven't camped there but my friends got married there many moons ago.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2014, 05:28:11 PM by mm1970 »

kib

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #35 on: December 22, 2014, 05:41:23 PM »
If you are in a tent, avoid being close to RVs.  The gennies can get really noisy and the warmth and lights coming from inside will only highlight the less enjoyable qualities of huddling outside.  If you are going in the near future, the desert of NM is freakin' cold at night.  Bring extra blankets and even consider a wool or fleece beanie hat to sleep in, as well as something with a high neck.  If you don't bring camp chairs, bring seat cushions for the picnic bench.  I second a comfortable pillow, or even two, as they tend to scoot away when used in combination with nylon sleeping bags.  Fuss with your air mattress.  Underinflated and you will find yourself with a frozen ass touching the ground, over inflated you will bounce around and eventually roll off.  I recommend making a flannel sleeve for air mattresses to keep from sliding all over the place.  If you want true comfort ... cot, 30" camp air mattress in a flannel sleeve, a real pillow, and a goosedown bag. 

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #36 on: December 22, 2014, 08:36:07 PM »
+1 for Coleman 2 burner stoves, steaks, hot coffee, warm mattresses, pillows, chairs and lots to drink - mainly non alcoholic as dehydration does not make camping fun. As a rule of thumb I usually drink half as much wine/ beer on a camping trip as I might otherwise, and probably twice as much water and juice.

And cards or some other evening, pre-bed entertainment makes it way more fun!


Metta

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #37 on: July 27, 2015, 10:21:14 PM »
Thanks to everyone for your tips! We have just returned from camping in the Taos, NM area and from camping in Denver. My husband loves camping now! I used thick mats and covered them with a feather bed (fake feathers) that I usually use on top of our guest bed and it was quite comfortable. We were not cold at all (of course it was July). I prepped my dinner veggies and made lovely stir-fry dishes with his favorite food, tempeh, on our lovely propane stove. Because I had things fairly well organized it was easy to use the car as a prep/organizational area before cooking. We brought our Kindles so that we could read at night before bed. It turned out that the amazing skies in Northern New Mexico kept us entertained for quite a while.

Best of all we met some amazing people who were also camping including an artist who camps his way across the country while working on his art. My husband is actually anxious to plan our next camping trip! He says he prefers camping to most hotels. Total win!

choppingwood

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #38 on: July 28, 2015, 07:21:26 AM »
Thanks to everyone for your tips! We have just returned from camping in the Taos, NM area and from camping in Denver. My husband loves camping now! I used thick mats and covered them with a feather bed (fake feathers) that I usually use on top of our guest bed and it was quite comfortable. We were not cold at all (of course it was July). I prepped my dinner veggies and made lovely stir-fry dishes with his favorite food, tempeh, on our lovely propane stove. Because I had things fairly well organized it was easy to use the car as a prep/organizational area before cooking. We brought our Kindles so that we could read at night before bed. It turned out that the amazing skies in Northern New Mexico kept us entertained for quite a while.

Best of all we met some amazing people who were also camping including an artist who camps his way across the country while working on his art. My husband is actually anxious to plan our next camping trip! He says he prefers camping to most hotels. Total win!

Great news! You couldn't have picked a better place to visit.

snuggler

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #39 on: July 28, 2015, 07:25:05 AM »
Nice work!

spokey doke

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Re: Your Best Tips for Comfortable Tent Camping and Cooking
« Reply #40 on: July 28, 2015, 10:57:42 PM »
For me there is no better way to SPOIL a camping trip than being eaten by bugs...so look into the pest threats and be well prepared to deal with them effectively.