Listen here, you urban hermits, The Great American Campout is upon us. Normally, I would leave you to your search for whatever grilled cheese/kimchi hybrid food truck you’d be tweeting about, but the National Wildlife Federation’s genius
marketing director got Nick Offerman to be the spokesman, so you better get your shit together and get out June 27th. The idea of a State, and eventually, a National Park came from the union of John Muir, a bearded hippie Scotsman, and made real by the signature of Abe Lincoln, a bearded Republican. The Park system is literally what binds Americans together. And who better to tell you to get your ass into one than Nick Offerman, mustachioed man of manliness. OK, so let’s do this!
Oh, right, you’ve probably only used a tent for Coachella that you half-assed while trying to bang the chick with body paint at the site next to yours. Fortunately for you, I’ve been camping enough to know the basics and help you out. You’re going to need to get there, set up, not die, and come back in one piece.
There are campsites EVERYWHERE. Some are just outside of city limits, some in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, so you should base your destination on your ride. If you are in a Honda Fit, stay the hell away from sites that require a dirt road to get to. If you have a Jeep, go wherever the hell you want, you have a fucking Jeep. If you have an RV, it’s a goddamned start, but it’s not camping if there’s a shower and shitter. Find a balance and rent a camper van such as these sweet rides from Escape Camper Vans. Once you have that picked out, head to ReserveAmerica.gov to book a site. During the summer, this shit is IMPORTANT. Don’t find yourself setting up camp in a WalMart parking lot because you’re too much of a dipshit to plan ahead. Or, do what my wife and I did, buy an old van, rip out the back seats, build out a bed & some storage and be good to go.
OK, now that you have the vehicle situated, time to worry about food. You’re gonna need snacks for the drive, and for the camping itself. THESE ARE DIFFERENT SNACKS. For me, Pringles have always been a solid roadtrip snack, but I feel they would ruin the rugged nature of camping. Stick with beef jerky, peanuts, or sunflower seeds. Something that you could imagine foraging. NO ONE HAS EVER FORAGED DORITOS.
For meals, you need to plan based on a mix of skills and practicalities. Do you have space for a cooler? Can you cook at home? Do you suck at things involving fire? Do you rule at things involving fire? If you kick ass at the open flame, grab a couple of steaks and cook those shits on the grill right over your firepit (which hopefully has the proper clearance from dry brush).
If you suck at cooking, but can heat water, there are plenty of freeze-dried just-add-water meals available at REI. Or get some Top Ramen, who gives a shit? If you REALLY suck at heating up foods for consumption, pack some sandwiches and some pasta salad that you can just whip out and devour. If your site has fire pits, make sure to get one with a grate over it to cook on, if not, snag your mom and dad’s camp stove and get the right propane for it.
To wash this all down, you’re going to need two things: water and more water. If you know the campsite you’re going to has running water, you’re set to just bring some Nalgenes and keep re-filling them. If NOT, bring a shit-ton of water. You’ll drink some, you’ll wash your hands with some, and you’ll probably end up spilling some.
If you’ll be doing a fair share of hiking around, some electrolytes wouldn’t hurt. Not only do plants crave them, your body does, too. Gatorade or Skratch Labs powder is cool, but coconut water is probably the best since that shit’s all naturally occurring.
AFTER you do strenuous stuff like hike, chop some wood, or bang in the tent, you’ve earned a beer. CANNED beer. Don’t be that piece of shit asshole who leaves behind a bunch of broken Bud Light Platinum bottles everywhere like the biggest piece of shit frat bro ever. On that subject, get some decent damned beer. Since this is my exceptionally eloquent and erudite excursion guide, I’ll recommend Base Camp Brewing. Not only do they make 12 oz cans, they make aluminum bombers AND they are slanging camp-themed beers. Ripstop Rye Pils and the In-Tents IPA should give you an idea how perfectly themed Base Camp is for your, err, base camp. If you are a wine drinker, those juice boxes from Target are perfect. If you bring ANYTHING stronger than beer, a plastic jug and/or metal flask of whiskey is the only acceptable option.
Keep that shit cold with a coozie. They’re lightweight and keep your hands warm and your beers cold. Don’t know where to get some? Got you covered, well, Cooler Can Monthly does. For $4.50/month, they’ll send you a killer koozie, such as the amazing Weiner, AR one pictured. This ish came vacuum sealed, which is neat.
OK, you know how you’re going to get there, and what you are going to eat when you get there, you need to figure out how you’re going to get there. Sure, you have Google Maps and a cell phone (AND GET A FUCKING CAR CHARGER OR BATTERY PACK), but if you are REALLY getting into nature, buy a map. A paper map. I can’t tell you how fun it is to actually outline your trip versus hearing Siri’s grating voice telling you to turn left into the 60-ft pine tree.
Lodging and Accomodations:
If you are going for the campervan/RV, you’re set. If not, you’ll need a tent. If you’re going with a bunch of dudes and you’re all a bunch of weird homophobes, you can get a one-person tent like these sweet badboys from PolerStuff.com. You can also get this if you’re not a homophobe, I just think homophobes are fucking stupid. If you’re out to make a baby out in nature, REI’s Camp Dome 2 is the gold effing standard. Already made nature-babies? Then you don’t need me to tell you that they make huge tents with individual rooms. Don’t think bigger is better, though, it takes a lot of body heat to warm up an eight person tent. On that topic, sleeping bags are rated by the coldest temps they can handle and keep you warm, but that’s not to say a blanket or two wouldn’t hurt. You could put one on the ground since you probably don’t have a sleeping pad, and one on top of you as you lie awake wondering if each sound you hear is a grizzly bear or a chipmunk. Wanna skip lying on the ground, snag a SingleNest hammock from ENO and get rocked to sleep like a baby. A baby with a bodacious bag of slumber that is the SingleNest.
First Aid Kits:
If you’re reading this, you either are genuinely interested in camping tips, or you are a member of my immediate family. Hey, mom! Hi, wife! If you are the former, you’ll probably need a first aid kit because you have little to no idea what you are doing and will probably hurt yourself on the bowie knife you didn’t need or the rock you hit your balls on when you fell out of your sweet fucking hammock. Grab a decent one and you’re set. By decent, I mean find the three cheapest ones and buy the one slightly more expensive than those.
You’re OBVIOUSLY going to want to Instagram the splendor of the streams and rivers you’ll discover, the sheer majesty of the meadows, and the stupid snake that bit you in the boot. If you have a sweet DSLR, by all means bring it, but know that they get annoying and bulky if you’re hiking more than a few miles without proper straps/clips (like the Peak Design ones I mentioned HERE). Since you can’t fathom leaving your iPhone in the car, you might as well grab an Olloclip Active to help your phone be all that it can be. Offering a wide angle to catch entire canyons and a 2x zoom that makes it look like you climbed closer to them than you actually did, the Olloclip also has a little clip so you don’t lose this doohickey.
Clearly, there are TONS of other things that we could get into here, such as proper clothes, footwear, headlamps (GET ANY HEADLAMP, and extra batteries), camp stoves, socks, safety gear, and tons of other shit, but there’s such a wide variety of what you could use, I simply don’t have the inclination to go over it all.
Now, I may be pontificating a bit here, but I think that getting out of your neighborhood and into nature a few times a year is exceptionally necessary. For me, I’m jumping the gun and planning on taking a trip a month before the GAC to the California coast. Since we’re too cheap to pay for a hotel at a wedding in Big Sur, California, the wife and I are taking our camper, Ranger Russell, and hitting a sweet beach camping spot just south of Big Sur. I’ve got a tent just in case we feel like spreading out, a shit ton of blankets, oatmeal packed for breakfast, jerky for snacks, camp stove, giant Stanley thermos of cold press getting ready, headlamps, maps of the great state of California, seven gallons of water, Prana hiking shorts, Vasque boots, three kinds of Basecamp beers, and several road-trip playlists ready to go. If you end up going, or want to gloat about your gear, feel free to do so in the comments!
Check out the Great American Campout at: http://www.nwf.org/Great-American-Campout.aspx