cotton balls for tinder. Kids feel like a pioneer when you let them build the fire without matches. Find some dry grass or peel off the fibers under the bark on your shelter logs for tinder. Once they get a spark on the tinder, you can use a GoFire packet to keep it going long enough to get some wood on it. Another opportunity to teach your kids occurs when the sun sets and the stars at night become big and bright. My dad always brought along an astronomy chart when we went camping and taught us to recognize the north star and many constellations. He also explained the myths behind the constellation names. One night, this skill came in handy on a practical level. I was able to navigate back to the boat ramp using just the lake map and the stars. To read a star chart, you just stand facing south (here’s where that compass comes in handy) and hold the chart up. The chart shows how the sky looks when it first gets dark. Star charts are readily available online and in bookstores. If your tent is large and you plan ahead, you can use the side of it as a movie screen at night. If not, you can tie a sheet up to a rope stretched between two trees. Our family has a tiny projector that plugs into an iPhone so that we can project movies onto anything we want. A small Bluetooth speaker lets us all hear the soundtrack. Bring a small lantern with a nightlife function the kids can use at bedtime. If they need to get up in the night, the lantern will light their way. Speaking of needing to get up in the night, a five-gallon bucket with a trash bag liner and some cat litter inside works great as a makeshift latrine. Slice a pool noodle and push it down over the edge of the bucket for a seat that also holds the bag in
place. Seal up the whole bag and dispose of it when you find a trash can. Many campgrounds don’t have trash service, and of course you’ll have no trash service if you’re out in the woods on your own. Because you’ll need to take all your trash home with you, it’s best to minimize the trash you generate. Avoid paper plates or cups (unless you’re camping where fires are allowed in which case you can burn them.) Lightweight camping tableware is inexpensive, and easy to clean and store. Before leaving home, I like to remove food from its packaging and pack it in hard containers with watertight lids. That way I can put them in the cooler and nothing gets wet or crushed — and I don’t have trash to deal with. When empty, the containers stack and store easily. We each
bring our own water insulated water bottles and fill them from a big Stanley jug with a lid that latches on so it won’t spill even if it tips over in the back of the truck. We also bring collapsible five-gallon water jugs for washing hands and dishes. I make coffee with a JetBoil, which boils water in less than 2 minutes, with a French press attachment. Our Stanley insulated mugs keep our coffee nice and hot. Whether you’re looking for a Plan B to replace a pre-Covid trip you had planned or are simply looking for a safe and affordable way to get out of the house for awhile, a camping trip is the perfect getaway for these trying times especially as summer transitions to fall. Plan ahead and be creative, and the entire family is sure to make memories to last a lifetime.
Fall 2020 • NBS OUTDOOR • 59
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