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Publication: Travel Tips
Getting Back To Nature

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Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 

June 24, 2008 

There's an old joke about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on
a camping trip. In the middle of the night, Holmes wakes his 
friend and asks him to look up at the millions and millions 
of stars twinkling in the sky above them.

"Watson, what does that tell you?" Holmes asks.

Watson thinks for a moment before answering.

"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of 
galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Timewise, I 
deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. 
Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful 
day tomorrow. Why? What does it tell you?"

Holmes rolls his eyes.

"Watson, you idiot, someone has stolen our tent!"

This week's topics include:




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Families everywhere are starting to talk about "getting 
back to nature", "roughing it" and other camping-related 
phrases with parentheses around them.

What most of them are talking about is car camping. That's 
the great American tradition of parking the family vehicle 
in a private campground or a state or national park and 
pitching a tent beside it.

 Many avid outdoors folks sniff at this sort of thing and 
dismiss it as little more than glorified backyard camping. 

I see their point: it's not exactly Lewis and Clark. If 
you're after a true back-to-nature experience or want to 
challenge yourself against the elemental forces of Mother 
Nature, waking up next to the water-slide end of the pool 
at a KOA campground isn't going to cut it.

If, on the other hand, you're a novice looking for a new 
experience or - more likely -  are planning a family 
vacation, car camping is a wonderful option.

Both Gorp.com (http://www.corp.co), a website devoted 
camping resources, and FamilyFun.com 
(http://www.familyfun.com), the online version of Family Fun 
magazine, offer some tips and hints for families interested 
in getting out of the suburbs and sleeping in a tent but 
aren't ready to star in the next installment of "Survivor". 
Here are some of them: 

* Borrow before you buy. 

The basic gear you need for camping - a tent, sleeping bags, 
mattress pads, camp stove, ground cloth, etc. - can get 
expensive. And if you're new at this and aren't quite sure 
what you'll need, the various packing lists floating around 
the Internet and in sporting goods stores can seem 

Ask a friend who camps about borrowing his or her gear. 
Explore the possibility of renting decent tents and sleeping 
bags which, when you get right down to it, are the only two 
pieces of equipment you REALLY need. Some equipment rental 
places offer tents, but sleeping bags will probably have to 
be borrowed or bought.

* When you go in, jump

When you finally decide to buy gear, don't skimp on quality. 
Especially when it comes to tents and sleeping bags. You 
want a roomy, comfortable shelter that will keep you warm 
and dry. Nothing can sour new campers quicker than spending 
a night shivering inside an inadequate sleeping bag or a 
leaky tent.

If you've already tried camping and you like it, consider it 
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* Practice  

Set up your tent at home, before you go, so you'll know what 
you're doing at your campsite. The kids will love testing 
out the tent. They'll probably want to have a backyard 

* Curb your ambition

Plan your very first camping adventure fairly close to home. 
This makes for much less packing stress, and you can always 
retreat if you need to. You probably also don't want to get 
so deep into the woods that you can't quickly drive to a 
Wal-Mart to buy more bug spray or the matches you forgot to 

Plan to stay no more than two or three nights. You want your 
kids to beg for more, not beg to go home.

* Prissy vs. primitive

Campgrounds are not all created equal.

These days, many resort campgrounds feature water slides, 
horseback riding, kayaking equipment, fully outfitted 
recreation rooms, you name it. Others offer a purer, back-
to-nature experience that simply offers the basics: running 
water, flush - or at least pit - toilets, picnic tables, 
grills and storage lockers. 

Still others are primitive. I'm not being disparaging, 
primitive is the proper campground lingo for sites without 
running water and with - at best - pit toilets. --provide 
more privacy. If you go the no-frills route, bring plenty of 
water and make sure everyone in your party understands 
exactly what's ahead of them.

* Buddy up

Share a trip with a more experienced camping family. You'll 
benefit from their tips and will get ideas for useful gear 
as well as tricks for packing and organizing. 

* Timing

Arrive at your campsite well before everyone is starving for 
dinner. There's not much worse than trying to set up camp 
amid a chorus of growling stomachs and hunger-shortened 
attention spans.

Arrive at your campsite well before dark. This should fall 
into the Well, duh category, but it's amazing how often 
little, unexpected things throw new campers off schedule. 
Leave at least twice as much time for setup as you think you 
will need. 


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* Selective sites

Pick a site that's safe for your kids. If your children 
don't swim, you may not want them near water. Steep terrain 
can also be tricky, especially if little ones. Make sure you 
inspect sites for glass, poison ivy and other dangerous 
stuff BEFORE you set up.

Study the campground maps, call the rangers and talk to 
friends to help you pinpoint a site that meets your 
criteria. Look for a site that is flat, smooth and on top of 
a hill, rather than at its base. If it rains, you don't want 
to be under water. 

The ideal site also offers privacy, a mix of sunshine and 
shade, and a source of water.

* Kid power

While the adults are setting up camp, put the kids to work 
too. Even toddlers and preschoolers can help unload light 
items and help set up sleeping bags inside the tent. Helping 
pitch the tent can be exciting, too, maybe not for you, but 
for little ones. 

Turn chores into games, like having a contest to see who can 
gather the most kindling the fastest

Also, make sure you have something for kids to do — Frisbee, 
a football, Legos, paper and crayons — if they get antsy and 
there's still work to do.

* Cleanliness

A whisk broom is handy for sweeping out dirt and leaves. 
Place an indoor/outdoor rug in front of your tent entrance 
for dirty shoes. 

* Duct tape

My favorite tool. A roll could come in handy for quick 
repairs of small tears, splintered tent poles and the like. 

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading.   

Your Tipmeister,   



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