i’m not the world’s easiest camper. and i never jump at the opportunity to “go camping.” so when kenny said to me two weeks ago, “how about instead of a few days at ocean city, we go camping on labor day weekend instead!” i wasn’t exactly excited.
but then we registered at the campground where our friends were going to be. and then we told the boys (their excitement WAY outdid my excitement!), and then kenny brought home fun camping things like air mattresses for the boys and a cast iron pot and a Coleman camping stove and…a coffee percolator. and i got just a little bit excited.
fortunately, we were camping with people who i was really looking forward to spending time with, and whose kids are great for our boys to hang around with. i was assured this was going to be a GREAT weekend. and…
i survived! and actually really did enjoy it. it helped that we were at a great campground, with a perfect natural setting (a huge creek, lots of green open space and lots of woods), and some fun activities like a pool, a zipline (the boys did it three times in a row), a climbing wall, a gaga pit, and great camping friends.
but, if you’re like me, you’re going to need some kind of dummies guide to enjoying your first big camping trip (yes, i consider 2.5 days and 2 nights a BIG camping trip. ask me in a few years, and i might have a different perspective…). so consider this a cliff’s notes version of:
First-Time Camping for Dummies
- pinterest is your friend. when we were officially registered at the campground, i went back to Pinterest and did a general search for all things camping. because all summer when my camping-savvy friends were pinning pins like “101 genius camping surivival tips,” i was laughing at those crazy campers knowing that would NEVER be me needing those tips. so, with my tail between my legs i searched on and found some great tips, but mostly recipes (shared below). so do not feel “above” the help of pinterest. it will help you in your most dire hour. go ye, and pin and plan away. i searched under “camping” and “camping help” and “camping recipes.”
- go with experienced campers. (because they will ALWAYS have extras of something that you will forget you’ll need. like a clothes line. and a table). kenny and i made a great long list and both of these items were on that list, but we forgot them in the 11th hour of packing and trying to get-out-of-dodge. we were with three other families (and several more who knew those families) who were experienced campers and had exactly what we needed for our soggy towels, creek-drenched underwear, and food preparation needs. we only needed to borrow a card table (our fold out table was safe at home), and a clothes line (we couldn’t find our clothes line in the garage before we left). oh, and mustard, ketchup, a hot dog campfire stick, and hot dog rolls when our crescent rolls didn’t work over the fire.
if you don’t have the luxury of going with other experienced campers, or you just want to go it alone, then i suggest getting the full book Camping for Dummies and not rely on this cliffs notes version.
- plan ahead and arrive at your campsite armed with RECIPES and lots of food and snacks. again, Pinterest comes in really handy with this. but Google does an adequate job if your search is really specific. kenny had already arrived home with his awesome Lodge cast iron pot, so I searched for cast iron pot recipes as well as basic campfire recipes. we found the following recipes:
Homemade Hamburger Helper. kenny was a little skeptical that I could get my stuff together and prepare the ingredients ahead of time for this one. i proved him wrong because i wasn’t so sure the boxed version of hamburger helper would be so good on our gastro-intestinal systems since we have never eaten it before, and who really wants to deal with G-I issues while camping? this recipe is so simple, and it’s easy to prepare the spices ahead of time, measure out your pasta, and pack the rest of the ingredients in a cooler. it was delicious. we doubled the recipe and shared with our friends who lent us their table.
Dutch Oven Monkey Bread. even easier than the homemade hamburger helper was this amazing breakfast treat. we made this on our second morning (because EVERYONE does pancakes on their first morning of camping!). i changed the recipe a bit and didn’t use biscuits. i used refrigerator cinnamon rolls, and still rolled them in the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. the extra icing that comes in the cans was a bonus!
Dutch Oven Cobbler. the boys were so excited when they saw cans of Sprite in the shopping cart the night before we left. “we get to drink soda while we camp? awesome!!!” unfortunately for them, it was for this recipe (can you tell we torture our children in not allowing them sugary drinks? we’re such dictators). this was such a pretty dish and came together quickly. we had it for lunch on our last day of camping.
This recipe for crescent roll hot dogs did not work at all. the dough kept falling off the hot dog and it was a hot mess! we just roasted the hot dogs and used bread for rolls and our friends’ mustard, ketchup and homemade relish.
- indulge in a dutch oven. you’re going to want to cook up some authentic camping recipes. and cooking over the fire is fun, but we already do that in our back yard enough. so to make your camping cuisine truly authentic and delcious (see above recipes), go and get yourself one of these. Walmart has the cheapest prices!and go with a partner (in my case my incredible husband) that knows how to light coals without the use of lighter fluid.
- air mattresses. need i say more?
- percolator. coffee perked over a fire or a Coleman camp stove is the only way to wake up from sleeping in a tent, all damp and dewey. forget the tea or hot chocolate…get yourself some coffee when you camp.
- bug spray. the good stuff. do NOT kid yourself that your au-naturale mixture you made will keep away the bugs. it won’t, and you’ll have lost a pint of blood to the wild mosquitoes if you use anything that you made yourself. bring out the big guns: deet!
- if you’re camp ground allows, have happy hour! i’m not saying that we did or did not enjoy an adult beverage during our camping trip. but happy hour makes the twilight hours so much more tolerable.