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May 27, 2021 Comments Off on Tips keep campers happy; veterans share campsite knowledge Camping, Featured, Latest

Tips keep campers happy; veterans share campsite knowledge

Flip Putthoff
NWA Democrat-Gazette

Camping season is here, and each spring families, couples and individuals set off on their first camping adventure.

In 2014, we asked experienced campers to send us some camping tips to share here in NWA Outdoors. To celebrate spring and another season of camping, here are some of those tips — sort of a greatest hits of camping tips. Happy camping.

  • Put together a camping kit in a plastic tub, tote or sturdy box with some campsite essentials. This could include items for cooking and eating, flashlight, basic first-aid items, insect repellent and more. It’ll be packed and ready to go on each trip.

    A pizza box makes a nice “rug” for placing in front of a tent to wipe your feet, and can be used as fuel to start a campfire, says camper Lowell Collins.
    (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

  • If you use a tent ground cloth, use it properly. Make sure it’s not sticking out past your tent’s floor. Otherwise you’ve created a bowl to collect rain water under your tent. Not good.
  • Schedule your first camping trip with some experienced campers. See what they bring, learn from them and ask questions.
  • Always take rain gear, even if the forecast is rain free.
  • Camp during the week if possible. Campgrounds are more crowded on weekends.
  • Put coolers and trash inside your car before going to bed. Critters can’t bother them there.
  • Pack only a couple changes of clothes. You end up wearing the same clothes for a few days at a time. If they smell like campfire smoke, so much the better.
  • Pack a roll of duct tape or Gorilla Tape. It’s handy for fixing tents, boats, clothes, boots, just about anything.
  • If you use an inflatable sleeping pad or air mattress, have a patch kit or carry a spare.
  • My son says, “Don’t forget the tent.”
  • A rug outside the tent and a basket for shoes helps keep sand and mud out of your tent.
  • It’s fun at times to start a campfire with just one match or no matches at all. For an instant campfire, pack charcoal lighter in your camp kit.
  • Save your toilet paper rolls and dryer lint. Stuff dryer lint in the toilet paper rolls and you have a great fire starter.
  • Pack two lighters, one to use and one to lose.
  • Don’t take a radio. No one wants to hear your personal preference of amplified noise.
  • Leave the cell phone in the car and enjoy the outdoors. Breathe it, soak it in, find a spot that brings you joy.
  • If you use a battery-operated pump to inflate an air mattress, turn one of the batteries upside down so the pump doesn’t accidentally come on and drain the batteries.
  • If you’re the family meal planner, suggest that your significant other plan the meals and cook when camping, since it’s usually the other way around at home.
  • Soy milk keeps much longer in a cooler than dairy milk. It tastes good and can be used like dairy milk in recipes.
  • Don’t scatter a bag of ice in a cooler. Leave it in the bag. It’ll last much longer.
  • Rinse plastic milk jugs, fill three-fourths full of water and freeze. Use these instead of bagged ice in your cooler. The ice becomes ice-cold drinking water as it melts.
  • Store your camping gear in a little used room at home like a formal dining room or spare bedroom. It will make packing and unpacking easier.
  • I tend to pack heavy. It’s better to have it and not need it than not have it.
  • Sleep with the same number of pillows when camping as you do at home.
  • Most campgrounds don’t have containers for recycling. Plan to bring your recyclable items home with you.
  • If you pack it in, pack it out. Leave no trace. Leave a campsite nicer than when you arrived.

Camping with kids

  • Before taking kids on their first camping trip, schedule a night or two of sleeping in the back yard. This will help children gain confidence in the tent, sleeping bags and sleeping outdoors.
  • Don’t feel like you need a full day of scheduled activities. Let the kids bike, skip rocks or play catch. Kids can amuse themselves for hours along a creek bank or lake shore.

    River camping offers solitude and scenery on overnight or multiday float trips. Gravel bars along the Current River in southeast Missouri provided cozy campsites in 2018 during a week-long float trip.
    (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff

  • Take cards, board games, books or (gasp!) computer games to keep kids occupied if it rains.
  • Involve kids in planning the trip. Kids learn important life skills when studying maps, preparing food and selecting their own clothing to take.
  • Make a list of natural items to find like feathers, rocks, bugs or leaves and try to identify what they are.
  • With kids it’s even more important to leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. When a child sees an adult picking up trash someone else has left, it teaches a lasting lesson about taking care of the environment.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at