June 14, 2013

Camping: Get Ready To Go - Living Well

Camping is a great way to get you and your family outside. I like to stress the importance of a good bed and tent set-up, but the real living at camp is done outside. Outside is where you will spend most of your time. This is where you'll enjoy nature, play games, sit around the fire, cook and eat.

The Living Space

The Living Space is your camp Living Room. Most often it will be the general area around the Fire Pit (see more about that when I talk about the Kitchen).

Here is a list of convenience and comfort items. What you bring is only limited by your imagination and the space you have to pack.

Chairs - folding or camping chairs

A Table (other than the camp picnic table) for 'entertainment' - Entertainment items will be kept under the table in tubs (snacks, a cooler for drinks, night toys like glo-sticks and sparklers. The table can be used for snack bowls, a drink thermos for juice or iced tea, glasses, beverages, alcohol, napkins, etc.

A play area, mat or play pen for wee ones.

A Lantern for the table; one that has a low setting and does not run on batteries is ideal. Keep the lantern lit at night so the table is easy to find to mix another drink, grab the ingredients for smores, find a bottle of water or grab the glo-sticks for nighttime fun.

Lap blankets or throws for night time use. If you extras you won't bring campfire dirt and grass to bed with you. Keep them in a tub so they don't get damp or rained on. Otherwise, shake them out well before taking them along to bed.

A portable radio or some kind of music machine. If you have the reception, a radio has the benefit of weather updates. Great if you plan a day away from camp.

The Corner Lounge

A Corner Lounge is great for everyone, but very handy when you have little ones or people easily affected by the summer heat. Young ones will lay here in the evening and fall asleep, and it's a nice open-air nap area for adults and young ones, alike.

To build one you will need:
-  an overhead tarp, a back tarp and partial sides. Basically protection from the sun and a windbreak of some kind. You will also need trees to set it up, or poles and ropes in some fashion. There are now fancy customized ones available all over the place. They look a little like a tent from the Sahara Desert. I have the idea these might be costly however. For ordinary folks like me, a few tarps (or even blankets in a pinch) will work just fine.
- Rope or bungee cords to hang said tarps.
- A mat or carpet for the 'floor'
- Foam mats, blankets, pillows - the more the better
- A lantern to hang up and a small basket of books

You can get crazy with these and add patio lanterns (if you have electricity) or Christmas lights, lamps, beads, stuffed animals, body pillows, beanbag furniture, and so on. I've even seen people bring along a couch and stuffed armchair.

A hammock or hammock chair can be a nice touch. There are hammocks that come with their own stand; no trees required.

A screen tent or camping gazebo for bad weather or if the bugs are horribly bad.

Are any of the above items actually required to camp? No, not really. But they can make it just a little more comfortable while you're roughing it.

Another part of living well, are reasonable bathroom facilities.

The Bathroom

To begin, I want to mention that there are all kinds of scenarios for bathrooms while camping. There could be no facilities at all. There might be an outhouse, but no plumbing, sinks or showers. There could be modern bathrooms with no showers, or the full deal complete with electrical outlets. Unless you are familiar with the campground, make sure you check what kind of facilities are available.

These suggestions are meant to cover most scenarios. You may not need everything here so think about what needs your group has and pack accordingly.

In-Camp Bathroom Set-up
This is basically a makeshift bathroom in camp. It is meant for times with no bathrooms or if you are potty training. You will need:
- Windbreak Tarp and some rope to put it up. This will make a private area at camp.
- Potty of some kind. A children's will work if it's just for the kids. Otherwise, check a store camping section for portable potties. How you dispose of the waste will depend on your location.
- Toilet Paper. More than you think you'll need. If you can get a large plastic coffee ground container, wash it out and add a thin-ish slot in the side that is wide enough for the toilet paper. Place the toilet paper in the container and feed a bit out the slot. This will keep the toilet paper from getting wet.
- Baby Wipes - for wiping  hands or the potty seat afterwards.
- Anti-bacterial gel - I don't like this stuff but it is convenient for camping.
- Cleaning kit - paper towel roll; cut in half to save money and space. Gallon container for water. Spray bottle cleaner. You may need this to clean the potty.

If you don't have a coffee container, pick up something with a lid at a dollar store to keep everything together (and protected from weather) in the potty area.
A shoe holder (the vinyl type that hang over a door) can be cut down to a few pockets. Hang from a tree or over the tarp to hold everything (hand cleaners, tp, etc). If it looks like it might rain, tape a garbage bag over the top to protect everything.

The Potty Kit is also handy for night time use with children if the public bathrooms are very far from your campsite.

For regular bathroom use, put together a personal bathroom kit for camping.
Place the following (applicable) items in a small bag that can go to the bathroom with you. A man's shaving kit works well for this.
Toilet paper. You don't want to run out and it happens in public bathrooms.
Toilet seat covers, anti-bacterial hand wash, hand soap, baby wipes, napkins, feminine products, a few sheets of paper towel.

Finally, related to the bathroom, I also suggest a number of auto air fresheners and a couple tacks. If your camp is in overflow or you have outhouses, you'll want them.

For washing up, use common sense to pack.

A Beach Towel, Bath Towel(s) and washcloth(s) for each person, and extra for extended trips.
A Shower Bag if there are no showers where you're headed - these bags are filled with water and then hung up for the sun to warm the water. The shower itself works by gravity.
Personal Bathroom Bag (Shaving Bag) - soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razor(s), toothbrush, toothpaste, brush/comb, hair bands, Body lotion, something that can be used as hand cream too

Bathroom Hanger (Shoe Holder with pockets) - Pick up one of the over the door hanging types and cut it down to two rows of pockets.  Fold it up and keep it in your bathroom bag. Campground bathrooms are not famous for their room or shelves so these are great to keep you organized and your stuff off the floor.

Clean Up Center
This is a spot with water, a tub or basin of some kind, hand soap, hand sanitizing gel, wipes, and/or a hand towel. This station is meant for general camp(er) cleanup. Camping is messy. This can be combined with the in-camp bathroom setup. For example - set up the bathroom area with the windbreak tarp. Place the basin and water on the other side of the windbreak tarp. Hang the towel. A small tub or the shoe hanger can be set up with everything else. If you have small children or messy adults, a bag of clean rags is nice too. Cloth diapers can be cut up into excellent clean-up rags. Use a bag to keep them in and second for the dirty ones.

Again, depending on the age of your campers, and how no-fuss your group is, these items can be a must, or a convenience. Pack for your trip and your peoples.

As I mentioned, living well in camp includes eating and cooking. This is a big topic! Tomorrow I will cover the camp kitchen and everyone's favorite camping past-time -The Fire Pit.

This is the ninth post in my Camping Series. For the previous posts, see these links.

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