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Must Have Gear for Casual Camping

Casual camping, for the uninitiated is not Man vs Wild style camping. This is not Survivor and no, Bear Grylls won’t be joining us to show us how to eat bugs and grubs for lunch.

First you have to have a car because, since this is casual, we aren’t hiking anywhere. Casual camping is also called car camping because we pull right up to the camp site. As for transportation gear: a 4 wheel drive SUV or truck, while not required, is the best. Just because it’s casual camping doesn’t mean we have to set up in a campground next to Mr. Ranger. Four wheeling up hairy trails is still casual as long as you can pull the coolers right from the truck to the site.

Since Bear Grylls isn’t coming on this trip and I’m not real good at starting a fire with a rock and a piece of lint, we travel with what my buddy calls “Girl Scout Juice.” The official name is lighter fluid and it sure makes things go quite a bit quicker. As you pack the car or truck, it’s also a good idea to throw some firewood in with your supplies. A lot of the forests have been picked clean these days, at least around most campsites and firewood is getting harder to find. We usually unload all the gear and the wife starts setting up camp while I drive wherever needed to find some dry wood and load up the truck. If I do it right, I have a whole load of wood in just about the time it takes her to set up the tent, start the fire and have supper cooking. If I don’t do it right, we eat cold beans tonight.

The old metal wire shelves found in refrigerators of old make perfect grills for cooking over your fire. We’ve had one for close to twenty years and they do last forever. I know I sound old but nowadays fridge shelves are made of plastic, good metal ones are hard to find and only old people use words like “Nowadays” anyway. You also need a spatula, a pot, a pan and an old oven mitt. If you can’t get something cooked with those 5 items, you may as well set up in the backyard and call out for pizza.

Of course you need a tent, but not just any tent. The old pup tent is fine if you’re backpacking in the wilderness but let’s face it, any guy who uses words like “Nowadays” isn’t doing any backpacking. Years of experience and bad backs have taught me to look for tents I can stand up in. If you’re over 6 feet tall, this may be a tall order (sorry for the pun) but most 4-5 man tents are 6 feet high, at least in the middle. By the way, tents are like ski condos: if they say they sleep six they really sleep two, comfortably that is.

Sleeping bags are a requirement, and the bigger the better. As we Americans tend to get uhhhm, larger, sleeping bags have grown as well. I also recommend an air mattress, preferably queen sized at least. Not only is a good night’s sleep conducive to a successful campout in my eyes, but napping is so much better on air as well. If you’re bringing an air mattress, you really should have a battery operated air pump; it’s not a requirement but it’s the least I can do since the wife sets up the bed while I’m out, bravely hunting for wood.

I’ve always worried about other humans more than wild animals, but you do have to be prepared for bears, mountain lions, and the occasional rabid chipmunk. I have a siren on my multi-function radio/flashlight/siren/lantern that should scare away any wild critters. Heck, it scares the hell out of me when I accidently push the button so I imagine Yogi Bear will run away too. I also have my trusty axe right by my side, day and night. I have absolutely no idea how to defend myself with it but the wife lets me sleep with it placed by my side as long as I leave the protective cover on the blade.

Who really wants to sit at a campsite listening to the fire crackle and the crickets make all that racket? Not to mention the inevitable racoon whose whole goal in life is to steal all of your precious sleep time on that air mattress. Be sure to bring along your Big Turtle Shell to drown out all those annoying nature noises, and scare away everything around you if the siren on your radio doesn’t work. As a bonus, if you camouflage it properly, it might even look like an actual turtle, giving you an even more authentic camping experience. Almost as if you weren’t sitting right by your car. With your lighter fluid. And home-cooked meal.

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