Archive for July, 2010

5 Uses for Camp Containers

Plastic boxes with lids have a ton of uses in the home and they’re very useful in camp as well. Here are my top five uses for plastic containers. These tips are good if your car camping, tent camping or have an RV. They also work for day trips!

When buying your plastic box, keep in mind how it will be used. Does it need to fit in a certain cupboard in your RV? What about in the trunk? Between a pickup truck’s wheel wells? When I’m buying more plastic boxes, I also look to see how well they stack on top of each other. If you’re camping with kids, you may also want to figure in how easy or difficult it is to remove the lid.

To quote The Queen Mother, “Don’t worry that you look dorky when you’re standing in Wal-Mart with your tape measure, measuring Rubbermaid boxes. It’s worth looking dorky knowing that they’ll fit in your RV or truck!” Plastic storage containers are sized by volume (quarts, gallons, etc) but there can be inches difference in footprint size or height for the same volume container.

1. Corral like items: batteries, games, tea, etc. The picture shows our game box- a Rubbermaid shoebox that holds our cards games, Scrabble dictionary, and other small games. In the trailer, I also have a box for all my teas, one for batteries, clothes pins and string, and another for pre-packaged seasonings like meat marinade.

Some things fit better if you take them out of the original packaging!

2. If you’re car or tent camping, a good sized plastic container works perfect to hold boxes of dry food mixes like ‘Quick Mix Baking Mix’ or packages powdered hot chocolate. It can stay outside or under the picnic table or trailer, and I don’t have to worry about rain or items blowing away. We still do this in the trailer because we can carry the entire box out to the camp kitchen at mealtimes.

Be sure to bring any boxes of food in at night- either into the RV or in the car. Squirrels are great at getting into things or, even worse, attracting a bear! Just because you don’t think there are any animals near by that might bother your food is no reason to tempt fate.

Measure your space before you buy containers! You need to make sure everything fits.

3. Pack your clothes in a plastic box instead of a duffel bag or suitcase. The plastic containers can stack in a corner of the RV or tent for more room. When we used to tent camp, we’d actually put all the clothes boxes outside at night. Of course, before you do this, you want to make sure that they are waterproof!

4. My favorite is an empty container by the front door of the tent or RV to hold shoes. That way, if your shoes are muddy or wet, or even just dusty, you’re not bringing that mess inside. Line the bottom with several layers of newspaper to keep the mud or wetness off the plastic. Snap the lid on to keep out rain and bugs, of course. I like to sit on the trailer step to put my shoes back on.

5. Create a separate ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ for day trips, either from home or from the campsite. Ours has extra batteries, water bottles, dry jackets, a flashlight, large garbage bags, and snacks. The idea is to pre-pack anything that you might need in case of an emergency or sudden weather change. With a ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ you know that if you forget sweatshirts and it gets cold, you’re covered. Just be sure to replace any supplies you used when you get home.

A variation on the ‘Grab-It-And-Go-Box’ is to have a box for specific purposes. We have one that has all our digital camera stuff (batteries, lens cleaning, memory cards, a pen and notebook, etc) so we can get out the door faster, knowing our gear is ready to go.

The need for tight-fitting lids:

ESP Boss was out hunting one fall when he was caught in a torrential rain storm. (The type where you can’t get the RV out and have to come back for it when the road dries out.) His containers were flipped over from the wind and bobbed around in the standing water but his stuff stayed dry- thanks to the tight fitting lids!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you use to corral your gear when you’re camping?
  • Do you have a favorite size or type of plastic container?

5 Tips For Telling Campfire Stories

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I LOVE having a campfire. There’s something about campfires that just build camping memories for me!

Campfires are great places to build family memories.

Telling stories around the campfire is a tradition. I’ve found, however, that many families don’t tell stories, because they’re just not sure how. Movies always show campers huddled around a campfire enjoying ghost stories, but that isn’t usually what happens in real life.

Remember, anyone can read a story, but, when a story is told, listeners (adults or children) feel a bond between the teller and themselves.

5 tips to get the stories flowing:

1. Decide on your audience

Will a group of adults really want to listen to a ghost story? Is a ghost story appropriate for the ages of the kids you’re taking camping? The idea of telling stories around a

campfire is just that — to tell stories. It’s not necessary to tell scary stories to have a good time.

2.. Know your story

If you’re telling a ghost story, know the climax and know the scariest parts. If you’re telling a funny story you need to know your punch line.

3. Have a set “story time”

When I was younger, we didn’t actually tell stories around the campfire — by the time we got back to camp, had dinner and a s’more, it was time for bed. Our story time was on the boat, when the fishing was slow and I was bored.

The key for an effective story time is a quiet setting where you’re not likely to be interrupted.

4. Invite others to share

If you’re going to have campfire stories on your next trip, you might want to let the rest of the family, or group, know you’re planning it. That way, they can bring stories of their own, or at the very least, they will make time for you to share your story with a minimum of groans!

Comfy chairs, bug repellant, and warm clothes will make campfire story time more enjoyable. S'mores don't hurt either!

5. Story time doesn’t have to be made-up stories

It’s a lot of fun to sit around and re-tell favorite stories (ghost, funny, or just tall-tales) but it isn’t a necessity. You can also gather around the campfire to re-tell your favorite family tales too. Like the time your son locked himself in the outhouse or when your daughter caught her first fish.

The real heart of campfire story time is to reconnect with your family or friends and to participate in the ancient human tradition of telling stories. Even if you’re just sharing family antidotes, campfire stories should be a part of your next trip.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your favorite campfire traditions?
  • What is your favorite scary story?
  • Do you sing campfire songs?

Video: Wind Test for Camp Stoves

After the first video, that compared these stoves head-to-head, I had a viewer email me asking how the stoves preformed in the wind. Here is your answer!

For more information about camp stoves, or to purchase any of the stoves featured in the video, please visit

Readers’ Opinions

  • How does your stove preform in windy conditions?
  • Have you had to alter your cooking (how or what) because of wind or weather?
    What advice would you give to a fellow camper if she were going to buy a new camp stove?

9 Tips to Pick A Great Campsite

Have you heard that there’s more interest in camping this year that ever before? Due to changes in how people budget for vacations, camping is suddenly ‘in vogue’ and people are heading to the hills.

Look at the slope of that tent! Might not be a very comfortable night's sleep.

So, here’s a question that’s being asked over and over:

How do I pick a great campsite at a public campground?

Good question! Here are 9 tips for you.

First off, decide what you’re looking for:

  1. Do you need trees for shade?
  2. Will it be windy?
  3. Tent or RV?
  4. If you have a tent, do you want a tent pad? Tent pads are usually mostly level and free of rocks and roots to tear the bottom of the tent.
  5. If the campsite doesn’t have a tent pad, is the campsite level enough for you to be comfortable?
  6. If you have an RV, do you need a pull-through spot or are you comfortable backing in? What about slide- or pop-outs; is there enough room?
  7. Can you bring your pets?
  8. What is the placement of the fire ring in relation to your tent or camper? Will the (prevailing) wind blow the fire at your “living” space?
  9. How close do you want to be to your neighbors? The bathroom? The water faucet? The camp host?

Lots of shade, but not much of a tent pad.

Some campgrounds have lights that stay on all night — especially near the camp host or the restrooms.

Obviously, you can’t really tell ANY of this information about a specific campsite from a website. If at all possible, go to the campground that you want to stay at and drive around. A family favorite campground here in Arizona is Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff Arizona. I know that the sites that are located on top of the hill, while pretty, are subject to wind. The sites just off the hill are much more sheltered. Another campsite is raked by headlights all evening long since it’s on a curve of the road. I really studied the layout of the campground during a pre-trip drive-through.

How to pick a great campsite:

If possible, visit the campground and come up with your first, second and third choices. Most campground hosts have a map of the campground that you can take with you. Make notes on it! Write down sites you’d love to stay at and sites you don’t want to have.

Not a lot of shade here. That might be fine if you don't spend a lot of time in camp.

Ask around. The camp host is the expert about that campground. Tell them what you’re looking for in a perfect site and then have them make site recommendations. If there are people in the spot that you’re thinking of using, ask them how they like the spot.

Reservations can be a good thing! Some public campgrounds offer reservations rather than first-come first-served. Often, not all spots are available for reservations. I recommend reservations when:

  • You’re going for an extended stay and want to make sure you’ve got a spot
  • Your trip is months ahead and you want to be guaranteed a spot
  • You have a favorite campsite
  • You’re going camping over a busy weekend like Memorial Day or Labor Day
  • Book really early if you can; especially over holiday weekends!

Look at all the big trees! But, how close are the neighbors?

If you are going to do a first-come, first-served campsite, then here are some additional tips:

  • Campgrounds are busy on the weekend. If you can, plan to arrive on a Wednesday or Thursday to get your spot.
  • If you can’t get to the campground mid-week, arrange to arrive at check out time. I’ve actually sat on a picnic table as a family was leaving to make sure I got the LAST space in a campground. (Um, I asked the family if they minded first!)
  • Be flexible!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your suggestions for finding the perfect campsite?
  • Do you have any funny (or horror) stories about a campsite?