Oh, summer. Days of outdoor adventures and hijinks, culminating in the ultimate warm weather experience: camping. What other excuse do you have to hang out with friends, not shower for days and experiment with pyromania?
While there are many different ways to camp (car camping, backpacking, lounging in a park until they kick you out at sunset), there is one element that is crucial for a successful trip: your camping companions.
These are the folks that will not only make sure that you eat, but that you eat really well. It’s the person who not only knows where to hike, but where to find the most beautiful, unpopulated trails or campsites. It’s the guy that may not know what he’s doing, but he has an extensive collection of gear that you didn’t know you needed. And, of course, there’s always the individual who may have no other discernible talent outside of making questionable choices, telling crazy stories and bringing the beverages.
To ensure a most successful camping experience, be sure that the following cadre of companions accompanies you on your trip, be it for one night or an extended adventure.
1. The Campfire Gourmand
Trail nickname: Martha, Cookie McCookerson
Man cannot live on bread alone and plain old hot dogs don’t have to cut it in the wilderness, either. For a tasty and fulfilling camping experience, make sure that you have a campfire gourmand in your group. This is the person who says, when asked about dinner plans, “Oh, I was planning on flank steak with chimichurri, grilled asparagus and couscous.”
Don’t know what chimichurri is? Don’t worry—your self-appointed chef will be more than happy to explain.
Those folks that are culinary-inclined seem to effortlessly produce great meals, utilizing tips and tricks that mere mortals may not realize. They’ll produce (as if by magic), already chopped veggies and frozen, marinated flank steak: it’ll thaw out on your hike in, making it ready for the grill in no time.
After your group has enjoyed the culinary stylings of your foodie friend, remember the cardinal rule of any kitchen: those that cook don’t have to clean up.
TIP: Want to become a campfire gourmand? Search Pinterest for camping recipes. You’ll find a little bit of everything, from the doable (like campfire nachos) to the “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding me” (an open-fire birthday cake).
2. The Boy/Girl Scout
Trail nickname: Little Big Chief, El Jefe, Badger
When exploring the wilderness—even if you’re car camping in a posh spot complete with showers—you need someone who practices the Boy and Girl Scout motto, which is “Be Prepared.”
Having someone in the group that is prepared for the small mishaps that inevitably come up is crucial. After all, there’s nothing worse than sleeping in a drippy tent that could have been easily repaired with a bit of floss and a needle. Did your shoelace break? They’ll probably have a spare. Neglect to bring enough water? The Scout not only has water purification tablets or a filtration system, but they’re probably also hauling twice as much water as they actually need. They’re lifesavers (sometimes literally) on the trail.
The other important element of camping is your location. Many people who fall into the “Boy/Girl Scout” category are wizards about finding the prettiest overlook or the most deserted trail. However, if you’re venturing into unknown territory, utilize the US Forest Service. You can call the local office and pick their brains about recreational campsites as well as off road spots that are still allowed. They’ve got the tools to make your camping experience a bit easier and they’re happy to help.
TIP: It’s easy to come to the rescue with minimal effort when camping. Make it look like you’re a pro by packing a homemade emergency kit. Useful items include: parachute cord (good for rigging a tarp, tying down a tent or repairing a backpack strap); dental floss and a sewing needle (it’s stronger than regular thread and is waterproof, also good for repairing tents, backpacks, shoes or clothing); a tarp (multi-purpose and super handy) and duct tape (which can fix almost anything).
3. The Good Time Charlie
Trail Nickname: Pyro, Spicoli, HMBAWT (Hold My Beer and Watch This)
Just as there must be someone who ensures that the group makes it safely home, there will always be someone who keeps everyone on their toes. This is the person who brings a bottle of Everclear to perform fireballs at 2 a.m. This is the person who, while attempting to catch a cutthroat trout with her bare hands, falls into the lake and spends the rest of the night in an assortment of borrowed clothing because she didn’t pack any spare clothes. This is the person who regales the crew with stories of his last camping trip, when he woke up to find a snake cuddled up next to his sleeping bag because he forgot to zip the tent up completely.
This person will also provide the impetus for entertaining the group, especially if the weather turns foul and everyone is huddled under a tarp to escape the monsoon. In this situation, Charlie will pull out a deck of cards for a game of drinking Uno, or perhaps Banagrams—they won’t have enough food to share, but they will be entertaining.
TIP: This camping companion can’t really be created—you either are one or not. However, you can try to up your entertainment factor by either stockpiling stories to tell, learning the play the harmonica, or bringing a slackline that you may or may not be able to use.
4. The Gear Junkie
Trail Nickname: Inspector Gadget, Data
There are necessities for living, like food, water and shelter. But many things fall into the category of “unnecessary but totally awesome” and that’s where the gear junkie comes in.
No, it’s not necessary to have gourmet coffee for your morning pick-me-up, but it sure is nice for one of your camping companions to pull out an Aeropress and ask, “Would you like an Americano?”
Your gear junkie friend is the one that brings waterproof speakers and a solar charger to provide the tunes, or a camping hammock for those long lazy afternoons after the site is set.
There are all sorts of items that are being made for camping, from tent chandeliers (these actually exist) to a backcountry carbonator like the one from Pat’s Backcountry Beverages. The size of a Nalgene, this device carbonates just about any beverage, including beer.
TIP: You don’t have to carry tons of (heavy) gear to add to the overall camping experience. A camping hammock folds up extremely small and is ultra light; a wine bladder, like the one that Platypus makes, allows you to carry a bottle of wine without the weight of the glass; marshmallow skewers are lightweight and can also serve as very small sabers for sword practice or to discourage amorous vermin. Just get creative—you never know what your next favorite camping item might be.
Camping is a great way to spend a night or a weekend just enjoying nature and making memories with family or friends. And, while having these types of camping companions can make the experience more streamlined, the most important thing is finding people who are looking for a similar camping experience, whether it’s glamping or totally roughing it. So gather up your group and get out there.