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Camping on a shoestring

The summer camping season is just beginning.  It is time to enjoy a Mother nature.  But  alittle short on cash and camping equipment? Never fear, here are some suggestions:

Wade Lake CG in Beaverhead NF

Tent – You could borrow a tent from a friend or use the back seat of your car but think about these two alternatives: buy an inexpensive tent (it won’t last long but long enough to help you decide if camping is for you); or, you do the “Boy Scout” thing and fashion your own tent from a heavy duty tarp.

Sleep Bag – So easy to make. Lay a blanket (a well used one, NOT the one Grandma made, no matter the color combination she used!) on a flat surface. You could use two or three blankets if the weather prediction is for chilly temperatures. Cover you blanket with the same size sheet (twin sheet on twin blanket, double on double, etc) and fold in half either the long or short way – which ever fits you best. Now you can “whip stitch”, duct tape, or use large safety pins to close the bottom and side edges. Now, start at the bottom and roll to the top. You have a bed roll sleeping bag. Don’t forget your pillow and a couple of leaf bags for underneath you bed roll to keep it nice and dry.

An alternative for those who simply don’t sew is to take your blanket and sheet stack and fold it in thirds and tuck one end under at a length that is comfortable for you.

Firewood – This stuff is all around you in the forest. Just be sure it is dead and down stuff. Hint: Anything “green” will smoke and not burn well. You might want to borrow or invest in a hatchet or saw to reduce your salvaged wood to fire ring size pieces.

egg carton fill of DIY fire starter

Drier Lint plus parafin wax in an egg carton – DIY Fire Starter

Starting your fire – Yes, you could use lighter fluid but it is dangerous and can give an “off” taste to food. But instead make your own “Starter” using an cardboard egg carton, some of that drier lint you always toss out, and paraffin wax from the grocery store. Stuff the lint into the egg carton’s cup and add enough melted paraffin to hold it together. Rip off a cup or two, stick them under your fire’s kindling, and stick a match to them.

Another fire starter is made by rolling up a sheet of newspaper so it has a diameter about the same as your finger. Cinch the roll tightly with pieces of string about every inch or so. Cut between strings. Dip the individual rolls in melted paraffin, holding by the string’s tail. Dry on a rack and store in a plastic bag.

Cook stove – Learned how to make a cook stove out of a tin can back in my Girl Scout days (hard to believe there was a time before aluminum cans and cell phones). You can use a regular tin can (like a soup can) or an aluminum can (like those used for soda pop and other beverages). Poke a bunch of holes around the base of the can and place the stub of a candle or a can of sterno inside the can, light, and you have a very basic cook stove. There are a bunch of other examples on how to build a soda can cook stove on the internet, and it isn’t a big project to do, but I would recommend investing in a simple little single burner stove. These commercial cook stoves can be used all year round, store safely, and are a more stable cook surface.

Clean up – Forget your scrubbing pads, SOS pads, and such. Grab a fist full of grass and scrub that messy pot or plate. Use safe, biodegradable soap and as little as possible.

De Motte Park CG in Kaibab NF

Campsite – Of course, I’m going to recommend a national forest campsite near you. Just remember to bring your own water. More and more often the drinking water system in forest service campgrounds is getting shut off right after Labor Day so it is better to be prepared than caught with out. On bright side, many national forests stop or reduce the camping fee when the water system is shut off. While I prefer national forest campgrounds, there are some really nice state and county campgrounds available. You might want to ask around.

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Fred and Suzi Dow