Back to Nature (Published on - June 14, 2006)
Nothing like camping to bring people back to nature
Photo by Rick Tremmel
A good tarp can mean the difference between being soaked or dry for days.
The tall pines stand blackened in silhouette against the mauve pink sky as the sun lights the horizon. A mockingbird has taken his place atop a branch pointing to heaven singing his song of angels. Ferns glisten with the morning dew. Little green frogs join the chorus, jewels upon silvered leaves. As the morning’s breeze rushes through the trees, the symphony is set with violins.

The faint aroma of coffee brewing lilts through the morning air from a nearby campsite. My tent is set, campsite in order and kayak is waiting near the water’s edge. As I wander along a path toward the river, I pass two young teens wrapped with blankets about their shoulders. They nod with smiles. We’ve entered into a parallel realm, united as one instant family, tribal, an ancient code of clans.

The wilderness bonds us away from the unnatural world … camping back to nature.

In our hurried, high-stress world, there’s nothing more gratifying than sitting out in the open air, taking in the starry sky or warming your hands near a campfire. Camping can be a wonderful experience for the whole family, but a few important considerations should be made first to ensure your experience is a positive one.

Camping 101


(Before you buy that tent on sale.)

There is no substitute for thorough research on this purchase. Research several styles before you buy. Consider the environment you’ll be camping in. We prefer a three-season tent for most of our camping, but in Florida it is very hot and rainy during the day. You may prefer a large divided room tent that allows you to stand. This style of tent may make all the difference for you while others are sitting cross-legged in their low-slung dome tents during a thunderstorm that lasts for hours or even days.

We carry both styles. One lightweight, low-slung, easy-up dome tent that we can transport with us in the canoe, kayaks or while backpacking. We also use this smaller tent when camping in the mountains, along slopes and in very cold weather. Although, as a rule, I don’t normally make my purchases based on brand names, this is one purchase that I want to know I have the manufacturer’s warranty and workmanship “covering” me.

The doorway of the tent should open from the side not the top. (Visualize rain collecting in the rolled down door and no ventilation when you are forced to close it up).

At least two windows with no-see-um insect netting to enable cross breezes, plus ventilation screens at the top. (Of course you’ll need a tent fly that securely tethers.)

The waterproof tent floor seams should not be level with the ground but extend up the sides of the tent at least four inches.

Choose a bright or light color. 1) You can be found easier if backpacking into the wilderness. 2) It’s simply depressing riding out a storm in an olive drab tent for several days.

Setting up

Choose a level site that is on the highest ground.

Remove any debris that can puncture the floor of the tent.

Place a heavy-duty ground sheet under tent for added protection.

We try to find a site that has four trees in and around nearby our tent to secure an extra tarp over the tent when and if the weather worsens. A good tarp can mean the difference between being soaked or dry for days. Carry an emergency bottle of seam sealant just in case. Take along a folded shovel. There have been times when it was necessary to dig a small trench around my tent to enable water to run off and away from my tent.

Use appropriate pegs for the kind of landscape your camping on. People often do not consider this until they are already out in the wild. We carry two varieties, the extra long stainless steel pegs (that often work best in most situations) but include a bag of thick, chunky plastic pegs, as well. (Use a soft rubber mallet.)

Do not set up your tent so close to your campfire that sparks from the fire could ignite your tent. Although I have never seen a tent go up in flames, I have observed many a camper huddling cold to an insignificant fire because they realized too late that their tent was too close to the fire.

You’ll need a cooking facility. With burn-bans in place within several states, a portable propane stove with two burners works well. Also many of the campsites now furnish electricity. If you are not backpacking into the wilds, you might want to toss in the crockpot and electric skillet. You’ll need a good pot and pan. Teflon covered makes your work easier.

You’ll need long-handled cooking utensils and an oven mitt. Of course, knives, forks and spoons and cups. Disposable plates certainly are convenient but most sites have water, and it only takes a few minutes to wash a couple of plates, thereby saving on the garbage load in the environment you are so much enjoying. You’ve got to wash the skillet and coffeepot anyway.


Organize by rooms using clear plastic bins, for example, “kitchen,” “dining room,” “bath.” Label the contents on the top of each bin. This will save you a great deal of time and stress.

Appropriate sleeping bags: Bags are rated according to the climate they are suited for. We personally use bags that are rated +5 degrees and carry a light blanket to use on top for warmer conditions. This requires thorough research, because this is a vital and important purchase considering your personal requirements.

You’ll need a temporary clothes line, but please, for the sake of beauty, don’t hang out your boxer shorts and bras at the front of your camp for all to have to witness. Discreetly place your line at the back of your camp. Some camps prohibit clotheslines for the very reasons I mention.

Don’t leave home without

Cooking and drinking water.

Rick adds, “shop towels and duct tape.”

Insect repellent. (That includes ticks and no-see-ums on the label)

Sunscreen. I regularly use an all-in-one product by Off – sunscreen and insect repellant. But I personally have found for me, nothing works but Deep Woods against a barrage of no-see-ums at their worst.

A well-supplied medical kit. (Include a small pair of scissors and moleskin in case of blisters and tweezers.)

A cooler that has a “drain spout.” Very important.

A hat, bandana and comfortable, stable shoes including a lightweight pair of sandals for water activities.

Waterproof, windproof matches in a waterproof container.

Pocket knife.

Compass and rescue whistle. (Can be purchased as one unit at sporting goods stores.)

If you have room, a couple of citronella buckets are great companions to ward off unwanted insects, especially in the evening and morning.

Binoculars and camera. Binoculars bring wildlife into intimate view. Shoot with your camera so that wildlife continues to live forever.

Number one rule: Leave no tracks behind … back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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