A Camper's Guide

My family did not camp when I was a kid.

Scratch that.

My parents hate camping, so we never did it.

That's better.

My parents' idea of a vacation includes a hotel room, pool, and continental breakfast. It does not include mosquitoes, campfire smoke, and the lack of a shower. While we did many a road trip, we never parked our car at a campsite.

However, as we children grew older, we actually discovered that we liked camping. I was influenced by one of my friends, Erin, who used to do a three-week camping excursion that included family camp and church camp. When we were in college, my group, the Fantastic Five, decided to use Erin's camping prowess and go camping ourselves! We've camped together three times since then, with varying degrees of success, but it always guaranteed a good story.

This weekend I went camping with my church, and had a very good time. While there wasn't a large amount of mosquitoes, there was a large amount of hairy caterpillars, which gave the kids in our group something to hunt and catch. I shared a campsite with a family of five, and our site ended up becoming the "party site" on Friday night, when we hosted several other families from the church in a giant s'more cook-off.

What did I learn? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups aren't the only good substitute for s'mores. How about Kit-Kat? Or replace the graham crackers with Rice Krispie Treats for the gluten intolerant? Or replace the cracker and the chocolate with a Fudge Stripe cookie?

We as a church shared two meals together: one evening meal and one breakfast. Both were potluck-style and full of delicious food. I prepared brownie cupcakes, with a surprise inside that I didn't reveal to anyone. When they bit into the brownie, they found two Oreo cookies sandwiched together with peanut butter! It made for a delicious treat.

Most of the trip was spent chilling in lawn chairs, talking with fellow members and getting to know them better. It's hard to camp by yourself, because the most important part of camping is the fellowship.

I'm going to post some reminders for myself here, and you're welcome to use them, too:

1. Get a bigger tent.

When the family I with which I shared the site saw my tent, they laughed. Why? Well, I am borrowing it from my little cousin, who is a fifth-grader that got it a few years ago in a Boy Scout competition. I can fit myself in it diagonally, and last year when I camped it worked just fine.

However, many people thought it was way too small for me this time, and a family lent me their tent for the trip. It could fit me length-wise as well as two other people (if there had been two other people to fit). I was glad for the space, and glad for the generosity. But maybe I should look in to getting a bigger tent.

2. Pack the little things.

I had remembered a few key items - foam sleeping pad, pot holder, marshmallow skewer, hiking boots, bug spray, sunscreen, long underwear (which I needed!), and a storage tote. However, there were quite a few things that I forgot this time around. They include:

- a small broom and dustpan (with which I could clean out the tent)
- a welcome mat (to prevent dirt from getting inside the tent in the first place)
- a flashlight (though I did have an electric lantern)
- my Camelbak backpack
- a coat
- cups
- my lawnchair
- a wristwatch

3. The best food can be wrapped in tinfoil and placed on the fire.

A lot of the food we ate had been pre-made and wrapped in tinfoil. On Friday night I had delicious potatoes, green peppers, and onions covered with seasoning and olive oil. Another family had ribs. In the morning there were burritos. Not all campfire meals have to be a hot dog on a stick.

4. Dogs make camping fun.

Many of the families brought their dogs along for the trip, and that made it a lot of fun. I enjoy dogs, and now more than ever, they like me! I don't have a dog of my own, but I am more than willing to share with someone else.

5. Never underestimate packing.

Camping requires a lot of stuff. If you think you need it, take it.

I'm glad I've learned to enjoy camping. It's not something I want to do all the time, but once or twice a year, it's good to disconnect from the phone and finally see all those stars in the sky.


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