The Great Indoors

Rough Draft
(Richard Thompson)
By Joel Achenbach
Sunday, June 25, 2006

It's camping season! Time to dive into the wilderness with nothing but your wits, your gear and your jumbo cooler jammed with enough steaks and iced-down beverages to supply the entire 3rd Armored Division! Herewith, some tips for becoming a happy, indeed wildly euphoric, camper:

Bringing proper gear

When you are out in the woods, roughing it, getting in touch with your inner Wild Person, you don't want to discover that you forgot to bring enough propane to operate both the Coleman Mosquito Deleto 2200 System bug trap and the Coleman "Hot Water on Demand" Portable Water Heater. A good rule of thumb on propane is to bring so much that you need an extra axle on your vehicle.

Sure, as you're unpacking your gear, you might think: "Did I really need a massage chair? Was it a little over the top to bring the queen-size inflatable Eddie Bauer Raised Insta-Bed and the two-sink collapsible "gourmet kitchen" and all those backpacker's martini glasses that nest together so nicely and are made of incredibly durable Lexan? polycarbonate?" The answer is, you're going camping, not joining a monastery. The outdoors is the new indoors, which means you'll need all the gear you can possibly fit in the trailer you'll be pulling behind your car. But if you really insist on "going native," don't bring the champagne flutes.

Picking a campsite

The spot must be reasonably level and free of stones, sticks, ant beds, snake holes, human bones or any other evidence of ritual sacrifice and cannibalism. Avoid areas with poison ivy. If you are unsure what poison ivy looks like, presume that any green plant is poison ivy. If necessary, camp on pavement.

When the tent is set up, ensure that all campers know how to reach you at the motel you spotted earlier in the day.

Starting a fire

Find dry sticks underneath logs, and perch them in "tepee" formation on top of leaves, bark, etc. Take a stick, and insert one end in a depression in a rock filled with leaves or thin bark shavings under the tepee. Twirl stick violently between your palms while explaining to younger campers the principle of making a fire with nothing more than natural materials and human ingenuity. Add lighter fluid. Ignite with match.

WARNING: Gasoline is never recommended, as it is highly volatile and should be used only by a "volunteer," while you take cover at least a quarter-mile away.

CAUTION: Never leave a fire unattended, or leave a campsite with a fire still smoldering, unless some other camper nearby has a much better fire and better beverages, and you are reasonably sure that your original fire will not burn down the entire forest or that, if it did burn down the entire forest, the land would be better off used for agricultural purposes or housing developments anyway.

Backcountry camping

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