Friday, August 11, 2017

Camping Gear We Use

This is just stuff we's not a sponsored post.

The first time I went tent camping was 26 years the day this year.  I went with my boyfriend and some of his friends from college...and we had a girl's tent and a boy's tent.  The camping bug bit me big time.  I loved waking up in the fresh air of the outside, the smell of the campfire lingering on my clothes, and the fun food we made to eat, and life surrounding me everywhere (especially wooly aphids, which although they are pests, look like tiny flying sheep).

I started a camping list then of recipes and what to bring, but I only got to go camping one more time after that before I was married...that camping trip was awful.  It stormed, and it rained so hard that people came up to our tent in a canoe to see if we were okay.  We spent the rest of the day at the laundromat.  Not fun.

Of course, from that I learned that it's wise to choose a campsite at the top of a hill, and not the bottom.  My husband and I got a great big tent and the first year we brought our nephews.  That was a lot of fun.  Four years ago we started camping with our own children, and we've managed to get things down to a science...including what sort of tent works well...not the first one we bought.  So, I will share what we do!

We initially had a Coleman Weathermaster Tent, which we bought back in 2004.  It leaked, no matter how well we took care of it, or how much we sprayed the seams to waterproof them.  The rain fly only covered the top of the tent, so water ran down the sides and through the seams.  Also, the little roof outside the front door caught rain and channeled it into the tent too, which made a royal mess.  It seems as if the newer models are getting good reviews, so I assume Coleman made some improvements over the past 14 years, although it still looks like the rain fly still doesn't cover the whole tent.
Our most recent tent we have is an REI Kingdom 8.  During our last camping trip, it poured almost every day, and we were warm and dry inside the tent.  The rain fly goes all the way down to the ground, there is a garage attachment that keeps a large area outside the entrance to the tent dry, so there's someplace to take off your shoes before you go into the tent, and you don't have to stand out in the rain.  Also, it's a space that's big enough to set up chairs, so the days when it poured all day, we sat in our camp chairs in the garage reading and playing games.  Inside the tent there is a room separator that we never use, but you can make two rooms.  There are pouches all over the tent to store all sorts of stuff.  There is plenty of room for a queen size mattress and two twin mattresses with plenty of room in between where the kids can play, or where you can walk across the tent from the front to the back.  The rain fly folds back so the front room becomes a screen room when the weather is nicer.  The front and back doors open up to let lots of fresh air get through.  In the back is also a little vestibule area, which is just the right size for a port-a-potty set up, so we don't have to go out in the rain to go to the bathroom.  It isn't difficult to set up (much easier than the old Coleman we had), and it's easy to take down.  It's a great tent.  The only drawback is that the material seems to get caught in the zippers all the time.  REI has come up with a new design for the Kingdom 8 too.  We got the old model on clearance with gift cards we earned with reward points from our debit card.  I expect it to last a long time.  A new Kingdom 8 with the footprint (which is a custom tarp to go underneath), and the garage (an extra outdoor room big enough for four chairs) would be about $700.
This is a view of our tent front to back
This is a view of our tent back to front

This is a picture I took from Google Images of a family using the garage as we did.

This is what the tent looks like with all the rain flies closed.
We use a Reliance folding portable toilet with disposable bags filled with gelling powder in the little bathroom area.  We turn a crate upside down as a table with hand sanitizer and also as a place to put a lantern, and we hang a roll of toilet paper from a bungee cord that is hooked into the holes on the crate.  That was DH great idea!
This is another picture I took from Google images of a nice lady showing what a Reliance Fold-n-Go toilet looks like in an REI Kingdom tent's vestibule...the vestibule completely closes over as you can see in the upper picture.
Oh!  Most important, put down a camp mat to insulate you from the cold ground, and use a sleeping bag appropriate for the temperatures you'll be sleeping in.  The first year we camped in the Catskills we had neither of these and we were freezing at night.  Now we're very husband is even a little too warm.  :)  Air mattresses and pillows from home make sleeping really comfy, but you can get away with just an insulating pad and sleeping bag.

We also used an Ozark Trail slant leg canopy, which we got at Walmart for $40.  It's so much cheaper than any other we looked at, and we weren't sure it would even last through one camping trip, but it did.  It did a great job of keeping our table dry when it rained and shady on the one day it didn't rain.  It was very easy to set up and very easy to take down.

We put all our kitchen gear into a plastic bin that we turn sideways like a cupboard while we camp. I used a shelf to make two levels, and I used two baskets so I could pull them out like drawers.  I used even smaller baskets to make one of the baskets two levels so I could put gadgets and serving utensils underneath and the silverware on top. We put the dish drain on top.  We use the same white shelving in the coolers to keep the food up away from the ice so it's not floating around in the ice water when it melts.

For night lights, nothing beats glow necklaces from the dollar store.  They are bright enough to help you find your lantern, but not so bright that they keep you up.
The last big item we got is a boat called the Intex Excursion 4.  It folds up into a small, portable bag, the oars come apart to fit, and it comes with a foot pump.  It took about a half hour to inflate all the parts, but once we did, it was very sturdy.  All four of us fit comfortably in the boat and my husband expertly rowed us around the lake.  It was really lovely.  Then we deflated it, and put it away.    It costs about $40 more now than when we bought it, but it's still very reasonable at $124 on Amazon.
I have a master camping list that we use to get everything together and then as a final checklist, as well as a shopping list for the food we usually eat, as outlined on the menu.  It's not fancy...the first year we went camping I went fancier, but my kids are such picky eaters that it was a lot of work for just two people.  I'll put that stuff in another post, along with recipes for Dough Boys, Hobo Burgers, and Mountain Pies.

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