Ryan and I go camping each summer. It's a fun tradition, gets us outside, gets us out the city and traffic and away from people. Plus, I loooove smores and pretty much anything cooked over a fire. Our annual trip (hopefully the first of a few for 2009) is this weekend, so I thought I'd write up a few of our camping tips in case you haven't ventured into the woods for a while.
1. If possible, reserve a campsite ahead of time. Many campgrounds offer online reservations, or by phone. Sometimes you can even pick a site. If you've been to that campground before you might have a favorite spot. At a new campground, take a walk around the loop and scope out the best sites for reservations next year.
2. Maybe it's just because I'm crazy for lists, but camping is one of those must-list-everything activities for me. Ryan and I have a shared Google document (free if you have a Google account, which is free anyway) that we can both access from our own computers and update. We have a "to buy" list and a "to pack" list. You really don't want to get into the woods and realize you forgot bug spray. Or toilet paper (yes, I bring my own).
3. Search online for good camping recipes. You can have very simple or very elaborate camp meals; it just depends on how much prep you want to do and how much stuff you want to lug in. We're fans of simple hot dogs and buns with bagels and bacon in the morning. Other favorites are corn roasted over the fire, smores (yum), and this year we're going to take some spaghetti to reheat.
4. Reduce your waste. Bring your own trashbag to pack out garbage (stow recyclables on their own). Bring pre-made foods in tupperware, and bring regular ketchup and mustard (instead of special travel or individual ones). Pack your regular silverware instead of plastic. We use paper plates, then "repurpose" them as the next day's fire-starter... not so possible with plastic or (yuck) styrofoam. Clean pans and silverware with water and baking soda for a non-toxic solution.
5. Leave the sleeping bag at home. Ok, if you're doing crazy snow-camping or staying somewhere where you might freeze to death, sure, bring the high-tech gear. But for car-camping, replicating home's luxuries is a priority. After all, we're on vacation to relax. We pack a queen-size air mattress, sheets, a down comforter, and extra blankets for warmth. Not a zipper in sight. Well, except the tent.
Campers, any other tips?