After nearly eight months of hibernation, the sun has started to show its face and summer is nearly upon us! Brighter, longer, and warmer days can only mean one thing: It’s camping time! Around the globe, especially in the Pacific Northwest, a wide range of people enjoy being outdoors, away from the trappings and comforts of their regular, daily routine. Naturally, that wide range is accompanied by an equally wide range of experience and “camping savvy”. Here at Lakedale we play host to everyone, from the first time camper to the hardcore enthusiast, so we thought it would be fun to put together a quick list of tips, tricks and hacks that just might make the camping experience even more enjoyable!
There are usually quite a lot of small pine cones, small twigs and leaves around the campsites at Lakedale that you can use for kindling, but if you’re having trouble getting your campfire started, we’ve got a few tricks for you.
Instead of throwing them in the trash, save all that lint that comes out of your dryer, and all those cardboard toilet paper rolls. If you loosely stuff the lint into toilet paper tubes, they make fantastic fire starters! Just make sure you don’t pack the lint too tightly, otherwise it will have trouble staying lit.
Are you the type of person that carries hand sanitizer everywhere you go? If you are, then you’ll probably never have a big problem getting a fire going. Most anti-bacterial hand sanitizers are very flammable, and the gel will burn solidly for at least a few minutes. Put a few pumps onto some paper, or pine cones and your firewood, and you’ll have a nice…germ-free…campfire in no time!
Did you bring a ton of junk food, but nothing to start your fire with? Never fear! Most corn chips (Doritos and the crunchy Cheetos are our personal favorites) make great kindling. Seriously! Dump out some Doritos into the center of your fire ring, light them up and let them do the rest. Of course, you can use the rest of the bag to make nachos once your fire is going!
The Fantastic Flexibility of the common Frisbee!
Douglas Adams (author of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) believes that the towel is the most useful thing in the universe, but we disagree. We think that the Frisbee is the most useful device ever invented…especially for camping trips. You can use the top side as a cutting board when you’re cooking dinner. Flip it over when dinner is cooked, and you’ve got a plate (or a bowl if you’re eating soup or things with sauces because the lip is so deep). If you’re out on the water and you lose your paddle, Frisbees make great replacements to get you back to shore. Frisbees also make surprisingly good shovels or rakes when you need to do some digging or flattening out a spot for your tent. Of course, we wouldn’t want to skip over the hours of fun that can be had if you use a Frisbee for its originally intended purpose. Never go camping without one!
Duct Tape. Duct Tape Everywhere.
Second only to the Frisbee, in terms of flexibility and usefulness, is a few feet of duct tape. We could go on for hours listing all the challenges that can be solved with a little duct tape. Any number of emergency repair jobs can be done quickly with duct tape, and you can get it in about six million different colors and designs so your repair jobs can be aesthetically pleasing to boot. Speaking of boots, duct tape works wonders to combat blisters if you’re doing a lot of hiking and you’re in a bind. The only problem is that full rolls of duct tape can be pretty heavy and take up a lot of space in a pack. So, here’s the tip: wrap several feet of duct tape tightly around your nalgene (water bottle), or one of your tent poles. You can even tear the tape lengthwise and wrap it around smaller objects like lighters or flashlights. Now you’ve got plenty of the good fix it stuff, without having to lug around a full roll!
Quick water bottle/canteen clean
Everyone knows that you bring a canteen or a water bottle with you when you go camping or hiking. Everyone also knows that it’s pretty easy for canteens and water bottles to develop unpleasant odors and tastes, especially if they aren’t stored properly between uses. If you’re out camping, you may not have the facilities available, or the time, to properly soak your water bottle in soapy water over night. The quick and easy fix is to fill the bottle with water, add 2 or 3 teaspoons of baking soda, give it a good shake and let it sit for about an hour. Rinse it out…no more odors or tastes! You wrapped that bottle in a few feet of duct tape, right? Good, you’re all set!
More fun stuff with water containers
Now that we’ve covered the fact that we need water when we’re camping, let’s use water for a couple of things before we drink it all. And, we’re still on the multi-purpose train, right? Instead of using bags of ice to keep your food and beverages cold, freeze a few jugs full of water, then pack them in your cooler for the same effect. Loose ice in a cooler is pretty much useless after it melts, but when the ice melts inside of a jug, it’s still perfect for drinking, cooking or washing! If you’re worried about weight or portability, use several smaller bottles instead of jugs. When the ice in your gallon jug melts, take them out and turn them into lanterns. Yes. If you have a headlamp with an elastic band, simply put it around the water jug with the light facing inward toward the water, turn it on…BOOM…you now have a lantern that will illuminate your entire tent!
Easy Camping Coffee
We don’t like to do anything without coffee here at Lakedale. Remember “No Coffee, No Workee”? We also say “No Coffee, No Campy”! If you don’t have space, or you don’t want to lug around a percolator to make coffee, we’ve got a neat solution for you. Place a couple of tablespoons of coffee in a standard coffee filter, tie it off with some dental floss, and you’ve got coffee bags. Boil some water at your campsite, and steep just like you would with a tea bag. Now, it might not come out as strong as your favorite espresso drink, but it will definitely tide you over long enough to make the short walk down to our General Store for a Cappuccino or a Latte!
If the bugs start to bug you
When you camp in the woods, you’re going to be faced with an environment that is starkly different than your living room at home. Outdoor environments are home to all sorts of wildlife, critters and insects. While we are very fortunate here at Lakedale in that we don’t typically have many issues with insects (thanks to our healthy population of birds, bats and fish), we still have bees and wasps that make their homes here, as well as the occasional mosquito. If you’re really concerned, and you don’t feel like coating yourself with bug spray, try burning some sage in your campfire in the mornings and evenings. Sage is a natural deterrent to all manner of flying insects, and they usually steer clear of burning sage. Also, for the love of all that is good in the universe, don’t set up a bee or wasp trap on your picnic table, or hang them in the trees in your campsite. Traps will actually attract insects, bringing the bugs right into the place that you don’t want them: where you are!
Beat the Burn Ban!
From time to time, for safety reasons, the State of Washington will declare a ban on all recreational fires. A burn ban makes it illegal to burn wood and paper products, which can put a real damper on things if you were planning on roasting S’mores over a nice campfire. We usually get no advanced notice before a burn ban, and the fire marshal will never give the duration for a ban. Charcoal is usually ok to burn and it’s great for cooking, even if a burn ban is in effect, but you don’t get the same type of ambiance from a charcoal fire that you do from a wood fire. Enter the portable propane fire pit. Propane powered fire pits look and feel quite similar to wood campfires, and they are perfectly legal to use, even during a burn ban! There are quite a range of products under $100 on the market, and we think they make a great investment if you still want to roast hot dogs and S’mores over a flame during those dry months that have a much higher risk of being affected by a burn ban.
We love the outdoors at Lakedale, and we love people who love the outdoors! We hope that some of these tips and tricks can help make your next outdoor adventure a little more fun. We’ll see you soon!