Happy Campers Need To Plan Ahead


Photo by sgarton courtesy of morguefile.com

I grew up in an “indoorsy” family. In fact, the first time I spent a night in a tent was at the insistence of a very outdoorsy college roommate.

We gathered a few friends and went to a lake for “Julie’s Camping Adventure.” Things started out OK. The food was tasty, and the weather was fairly warm. I had my own tent and a cozy sleeping bag.

This wasn’t so bad after all, I thought.

Then things took a turn for the worse in the late evening. Rain started falling. My tent partially collapsed in the wind and pouring rain. Water seeped in, forming a little pool in half of the tent.

As I rolled to the other side of the tent, I lamented that nothing is quite like a soggy sleeping bag.

When the rain subsided, I heard animals rustling outside my tent. They sounded big. Not only was I wet and cold, I also was terrified.

I thought surely I’d be a midnight snack for some huge, hungry animal that had wandered over from a distant state, probably having heard through the animal grapevine that I knew nothing about camping.

Needless to say, sleep escaped me that evening.

I obviously survived my adventure, and I even had fun on a hike the next day. I later went on to more enjoyable camping adventures.

Camping and hiking are chances to enjoy the outdoors, “rough it” a little and learn a few things along the way. If you’re planning a lengthy camping or hiking trip, you have a few guidelines to keep in mind.

First, plan your menus, shop for ingredients and think “light” when packing. Aim for cookware that “nests” so it takes up less room and also consider using aluminum foil as a cooking aid.

Find out if you’ll need to bring a portable stove or grill or if campfires are allowed. If you are using new or unfamiliar cooking equipment on your trip, do a trial run at home to be sure you know how to operate it.

Consider easy-to-prepare items such as macaroni, rice, and dry soup, pancake and sauce mixes that help create quick and tasty meals with only the addition of water and a few other ingredients.

If meat is on your menu, don’t forget your food thermometer. Be sure the meat is packed on ice and kept below 40 degrees.

Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees and chicken breasts to at least 165 degrees. Heat leftover food to at least 165 degrees. Don’t forget to clean your thermometer between uses.

If you plan to take a hike, pack some shelf-stable foods to eat on the trail. Consider bringing peanut butter in plastic jars; juice boxes; crackers; canned tuna, ham, chicken or beef; beef jerky; nuts; dried fruit; and plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.

When doing cleanup at your campsite, use biodegradable soap that’s available in many camping supply stores. Wash your dishes at your campsite, away from the edges of rivers, lakes and streams. Dump the dirty water on dry ground to prevent contaminating the rivers, lakes or streams.

Wash your hands well. For quick cleanup, pack some disposable wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Here’s a snack to enjoy while you’re enjoying a nature hike or brisk walk around your neighborhood. Trail mixes are generally energy-dense for their weight.

Trail Snack

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. oatmeal (not instant oatmeal)
1 c. raisins
1 c. coconut
1 c. peanuts
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix together well. Press onto greased or sprayed baking pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool and cut into chunks. Divide into 12 servings and place in individual sealed bags.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 300 calories, 7.4 grams (g) protein, 35 g carbohydrate and 15.5 g fat.