Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

June 23, 2013

Kevin Reese: Summer camping just got cooler…

Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Memories of that spring chill on the breeze are fading fast and the lack of any real semblance of winter means we’re likely destined for another scorching summer. While many of us enjoy camping and outdoor activities year round some things just go better with those sunny summer days! Sit back, relax and enjoy the comforts of air conditioning while getting up to speed on seven ultra-cool ways to create the summer campsite every other camper craves!

Location, Location, Location!

The age old realtor mantra rings as true in camping as it does with brick and mortar homes. Picking the right location can mean the difference between a truly relaxing oasis-hideaway experience and the feeling that you’re simply trying to survive the weekend. Depending on where you are camping, shade can be a precious commodity. The heat of a summer day can be more than oppressive, it can be downright dangerous. Picking a campsite under the canopy of trees is a great way to catch a break from the heat; an even better location might be in a shaded area with a water source close by; nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a quick swim, even better when it’s right outside your tent. Unfortunately, trees and water also offer a great haven for creepy crawlers and flying nightmares.

What’s Buggin’ You?

Summertime camping dishes out a problem few campers battle successfully, bugs! Warm weather, water and our glorious outdoors work together to create an all-out war zone for those not armed with the appropriate weapons. Millions agree, a camper’s arch nemesis is the mosquito. Fleas and ticks can also be a major problem; however, past fights to control them included greasy, messy insect repellents that seemed to attract more than repel! BugBands are a great way to protect your family from mosquitoes, fleas and blackflies around the campground and especially during camp activities. Simply putting a BugBand around your wrist may mean the difference between enjoying your mini-vacation or feeling under siege. ThermaCELL also offers great protection. A butane cartridge and manufactured chrysanthemum scent keep both skeeters and blackflies at bay. ThermaCELL offers individual portable units as well as picnic and campsite styled lanterns. Treating clothes with Permanone or Permethrin is also a great way to protect your family from ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes and mites, and generally lasts anywhere from three to four days up to two weeks even with repeated washing. Whatever you choose, it’s bound to be the envy of your camping neighbors who chose flight over a smart fight!

Making Your Outdoor House a Home

Years ago, a camping trip never screamed bad choice louder than tent selection while we visited the Grand Canyon. While my wife and I were fine in a tent meant to accommodate four, our friends were less than enthusiastic about crawling into their 3-foot x 6-foot pop-up tent, that was marketed for two; worse, in an attempt to save on material in manufacturing, I suppose, their tent was missing a floor. My wife and I awoke to the rhythmic sound of slapping and screaming coming from our friends’ tent. During the night, hundreds of spiders also sought shelter in their already compact space. They would continue to kill spiders routinely for the following five days or so.

Selecting a great tent can be challenging and serves as another key element to making or breaking your camping experience. When selecting a tent, a number of attributes should be considered. Quality, warranty and cost offer the foundation of a good choice, followed closely by making sure your tent choice offers protection from the elements as well as room for all your campers.

While the right tent and a great piece of real estate are important, they certainly do not make your outdoor house a home. Finding good bedding and camp furniture can be a frustrating experience but when it all comes together, your campsite comes in a close second only to home itself. Sleeping bags, cots, air mattresses, tables, chairs and even misting fans and other cooling products go a long way in your conversion to home away from home while also adding comfort to your stay whether eating, sleeping or simply relaxing.

Alps Outdoorz/ Browning Camping offers the best quality tents and other camping gear I’ve come across. More importantly, the attention to detail and family-style customer service I receive keeps me going back. They are worth a good look when you’re ready to shop.

Weather Ready? Why Not?

The picture-perfect summer campsite finds you resting comfortably under a canopy of leaves dancing on a breeze, not racing to find cover from a passing storm. Humidity and changing weather is the norm here rather than the exception. So, it makes sense to plan for rain regardless of the forecast. Keeping radios in camp is a great way for emergency weather alerts to give you the upper hand on in-camp preparations!

Food, the way to a Camper’s Heart

Anyone who has ever suffered from food poisoning is sure to agree, food storage is more important than how it tastes. Select a quality ice chest capable of insulating for long periods of time. Depending on the length of your camping trip consider using block or dry ice instead of standard ice cubes. If you plan on “roughing it” for a while, research the best combination of cooler and ice to protect your food for the long haul. Food poisoning, tents and summer heat don’t mix!

Storage issues aside, some of my greatest camping memories are those of hearty camp meals, snacks and roasted marshmallows! The envy of a great campsite is often established by the tantalizing aroma of steak, chicken, or ribs wafting through the campground. From Dutch ovens, fire rings, cast iron cookware, stoves, stove/oven combinations and camp-kitchen organizers, Camp Chef offers every tool you need to ensure your campsite is the root cause of aroma envy in every corner of the outdoors. Don’t forget to pack your knives, forks and spoons!

Safety and Sensibility

Years ago, on an elk hunt with family amidst the pristine Bitterroot wilderness of western Montana, I witnessed first-hand what it feels like to lose your way. On an afternoon hunt, with temperatures eclipsing -20 degrees, I ventured off a logging road to investigate elk sign in a spot known to be a common bedding area. While wandering the area for a bit I noticed the sun had begun to set. As a result, shadows moved and faded, changing the entire landscape around me. The sudden realization that I had lost my orientation sickened me. With overnight temperatures between 20 to 30 degrees below zero, I knew I had to find my way out, and fast. I followed my footsteps but quickly realized the attempt was futile; my tracks crisscrossed in every direction. Panic set in as darkness eliminated any opportunity to identify a landmark. Resting on a fallen tree proved essential. After calming myself down I searched for the silver shadows of moonlight. I knew my original direction of travel and the moon pointed my way back out. While I had ventured less than 300 yards from the logging road going in, my return to the road was more than a half-mile away. I resolved to never trek into the wilderness again without a compass or GPS, and if possible, radio communication.

Sure, summer camping does not offer extreme circumstances like subzero temperatures but temperature swings in the other direction are just as dangerous. Certain wildlife species typically hibernating during winter months also are on their feet – pack your bear spray!

Unlike home, campers are at the mercy of any number of variables. Often the level of comfort campers have goes well beyond tents, furniture and camp food. Rugged, unforgiving terrain, unexpected weather, wildlife encounters and losing your way are just a few of the dangers you must be prepared to face. During those times, communication and a sense of direction can mean the difference between safety and life threatening circumstances. A number of great manufacturers stand at the ready to offer invaluable gear designed specifically to give you a friendly voice, offer direction, save your life or ruin a bear’s day!

Bushnell’s BackTrack GPS offers dependable guidance to help you stay on course whether you’re on a trail or not. Incorporating rugged durability, a long batter life and the features of both a handheld GPS and compass, the BackTrack is a great way to ensure you always make your adventure a roundtrip.

Big Solutions, Small Packages

One of the biggest pitfalls in setting up the perfect summer campsite is forgetting smaller details. Packing larger essentials is easy but remembering those big solutions in small packages can be a chore! Make a checklist of all items, large and small. Depending on the type of camping you are preparing for, it’s okay revisit the list often to pare down necessities. Considering a family camping trip, here is a list of small ticket items that pack a big punch when it comes to creating a trouble-free campsite:

Lanterns – Dorcy LED lanterns offer great campground lighting solutions with exceptional battery life without the potential fire dangers typical of fuel burning lanterns. ThermaCELL also offers great table lanterns while protecting your family from mosquitoes and blackflies.

Flashlights – Dorcy also offers a great selection of flashlights and spotlights. Pack enough for one flashlight per camper, an extra flashlight and a cordless spotlight. Spotlights offer an intense light source perfect for signaling or illuminating an area of interest. High intensity flashlights should be small enough to fit comfortably into a pocket, backpack or fanny pack. For long battery life, LED flashlights are a great choice! Be sure to pack extra batteries.

Sharp Knife – Outdoor enthusiasts agree. A high quality knife is one of the most valuable tools in the outdoor world. Knives are useful in cooking, protection, outdoor survival and a wealth of other tasks. Unfortunately, a good knife is also one of the most overlooked items when packing for a camping trip. Some quality knife manufacturers include Buck, Kershaw, Gerber, Case, Real Avid, Benchmade and Cold Steel. Real Avid’s Revelation knife even offers LED lighting in the handle to light up the area in front of your blade.

Water Filtration – Staying hydrated is critical during summer months. While coolers are full of soda, punch, fruit juice and other beverages, few hydrate as well as good old fashioned water. Elete offers electrolyte concentrate to further improve hydration; however, the most important factor in hydration and overall camp health is beginning with clean water itself!

McNett Aquamira offers incredibly effective water filtration; in fact, McNett’s latest offering incorporates the dependability of Aquamira filtering with the convenience of a 24-ounce water bottle!

First Aid – Venturing outdoors means leaving the safety and security of home behind and accepting that the potential for injury has just been magnified. The best medicine for this dynamic is a first aid kit comprised of absorbent compression pads, medical tape, adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, aspirin, scissors, rolled bandage, gauze pads, disposable gloves, tweezers, thermometer, space blanket and enough fabric for a sling.   

Camera – Part of the outdoor experience is creating lifelong memories. Some of my greatest memories were on camping trips – roasting marshmallows, chasing squirrels, hiking, the smell of a campfire, playing horseshoes. As I’ve aged, some of those memories have faded but an evening going through photos brings all of those moments back to life. If you take the time to embrace the outdoors, take the time to record those special moments, especially with your children.

Tangible keys to a great campsite aside, the single most important element in great summer camping is attitude! No matter how well you’ve prepared, how comfortable your camp is, or how much people envy your setup, your attitude can leave your adventure in ruins.

We are fortunate to live in a country rich in outdoor heritage and wide open spaces. More than just a fun excursion, camping offers unrivaled opportunities to teach (and learn) life lessons, responsible stewardship and overall appreciation for our natural resources.

Your attitude in camp defines the commitment of future generations to the preservation of our outdoor heritage. A great campsite is about much more than just fun. It’s about leaving a legacy. Take the time to get it right!

Here are some web links to wet your camping appetite!

Bushnell –

Camp Chef –

ThermaCELL –

Alps Outdoorz –

Browning Camping –

Hunt hard, hunt often.