Summer Livin’: Camping Trips

21 Jun

Editor’s Note:  Summer Livin’ is a segment in which we ask our friend Steed to offer some words of wisdom on how to best enjoy certain staples of the summer months.  For further reason as to why this should be appointment Internet all summer long, check out the Introduction.  On to the easy livin’.  

“There’s one summer tradition that has gone down every single year of my life.  The camping trip.  Or trips, if you’re lucky.  My parents were avid summer campers back in the day, and they took us out into the great outdoors at least a few weekends every summer.  They taught me the basics of campground livin’, and I’ve continued the tradition on my own, throwing in some updates and personal touches where I see fit.

It’s no easy task to execute a successful camping trip, no matter who your fellow campers are going to be.  Sure, on the surface it looks pretty simple, and in some ways it is.  You need a tent, hopefully a nice lake or river nearby, some food to grill, some beer to drink, some stuff to burn.  But getting the right mix of all that, with the right people and in the right setting, is like a goddamned science.  And I’m a camping science wizard.  Let’s take a look at some of the tricky ingredients I work with.

Group

Before you start planning for any camping trip, you need to figure out who’s going to be coming with you, and what the collective mindset of the group will be.  You could be the head of a beautiful family of four, heading out with a couple other families.  In that case, you’re going to need an area where kids can play safely with minimal supervision while the parents get the margs flowing and make halfhearted passes at the other spouses.  Fun for young and old.

Things are a little bit different if you’re a young buck, hot-blooded and single, and you’re getting your like-minded friends together for a rowdy weekend in the trees.  In this case, you gotta decide if your group is going to be just you and the guys (or you and the girls, whatsup ladies) or a mix.  If it’s just unisex, then you’ve gotta make sure to find a social campsite somewhere, where you can meet and mingle with other groups of party people.  If your group is already a mix, then you can think about finding a more secluded camping spot, where everyone can allow the outdoor setting to bring out some freak flags.  Can you fit three in a sleeping bag?  You tell me.

Supplies

Since the whole point of your camping excursion is to get away from this material world we live in, you’re ideally going to be posted up somewhere without access to any stores, restaurants, or bars.  So you’re gonna need to pack everything you’ll end up needing.  First up, food.  You can’t really go wrong with a bung of dogs, burgs, and chicken.  You can get creative with it, by bringing some crazy BBQ marinade that a hot babe posted on Pinterest, but at the end of the day, you really just need some sustenance.  If it tastes good, point on you.  But don’t get too fancy.

Second up, most important – party supplies.  As awesome as camping is, you will eventually get to the point in the day where there is not much else to do besides sit around with your family/buds/potential lovers.  If it’s night time, then you’ll have the campfire to stare at, but the essence of the situation is still the same.  Getting away from the material world means you don’t have all your typical distractions around to take up your time.  So what do you do?  Drink my friends.  And maybe smoke a little something, if you’re so inclined.  That is the beauty of camping – it’s really all set up in the end for everyone to get blissfully buzzed (and beyond) among the beauty of nature.  So DO NOT forget the drinks.  Whiskey is usually a great option for warming yourself by the campfire, and then of course, there are the dirty 30s, of which you will need upwards of seven.  [Ed.’s Note: 30 packs of beer]  I’m a Schlitz man myself, but really anything sudsy will do the trick in the woods.  If you want to spice it up with some tequila or homemade sangria, then by all means, go crazy.  There are no laws when you’re camping.  [Ed.’s Note: There are]

Music

Another basic ingredient of any good camping trip is also the basic ingredient of any good social gathering – music.  There are a few options when it comes to crafting the perfect soundtrack for your nature excursion.  First, because of the wonderful and mysterious tech times we live in, you can bring out some iPod speakers and show off your diverse music library to everyone within hearing range.  This is probably your best bet, or at least an option to always keep around.  With all of your music at your finger tips, you can shift the entire feeling of your camping trip with the press of a button.

This is a relatively recent upgrade to the whole camping music thing, because back when I was growing up, we didn’t have anything close to this.  We made do – Dad was a big time Van Halen fan, so he had each kid learn a musical part of the entire Van Halen album, from vocals all the way to guitar lines.  When we were out camping, he’d shout out a song title, like “Feel Your Love Tonight,” and we would drop everything and perform the song on the spot.  I usually shifted back and forth between doing David Lee Roth’s vocals and Eddie’s guitar licks (with my voice) so it wasn’t a bad way to go.  Just got tiring after a while.  So I’m glad to see the iPod speakers these days.

The second way to go with music on the camping trip is to befriend someone who is really good at the guitar.  When the stars come out, the fire gets lit, and your thirteenth beer is cracked, the acoustic guitar sing-a-long is the greatest thing in the world.  The guitar player needs to be okay with granting shouted song requests, and should ideally be able to keep it together from a musical standpoint when the whiskey comes out.  And he should be able to play “Crash”.  If I can’t hear “Crash” at least once around the fire, then the entire trip is ruined.

Those three basic elements are really all you need to worry about when putting together a great camping trip.  If you get these things figured out, then everything else pretty much falls into place.  The camping trip is really one of the most American things I can think of doing during the summer, and I will be venturing out to the woods several times this year.  If you happen to be out enjoying nature as well, and come across a campsite decked out with mansion tents, dirty 30s, and “Running With The Devil,” come join the party.  There’s always room for one more around the fire.”

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