Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Have you ever found yourself unprepared for a camping weekend?

Several years ago, I embarked on a camping trip with my son and a larger group known as the Indian Guides.  This group went on several camping trips to various state parks each year, and one of the favored location was Fort Davis in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

Nestled along the foot of the Davis Mountains (yes, there are mountains in Texas), Fort Davis attracts many types of tourists, including motorcycle enthusiasts, star gazers, history buffs, and outdoorsmen.  The old fort is a National Historic Site that captures the history of the Indian Wars during the late 1800’s.  You can also venture a few miles up the road and participate in a Star Party at McDonald Observatory.  While you’re waiting for the night sky, there are numerous hiking trails to experience with some wonderful views.  And for camping, Davis Mountains State Park offers an abundance of campsites for tent or RV campers.

We always enjoyed our trips to Fort Davis, because every trip was completely different.  It seems odd to say since we were typically going there at pretty much the same time every year.  However, one thing we learned about Fort Davis is that it was like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates…you never knew what you were gonna get.  One trip, I completely ignored reviewing the weather forecast and went with what I was seeing when we left home.  It was 90 degrees, clear, and sunny outside and looked to be a perfect weekend.

The curveball started coming on Saturday when a fierce north wind started blowing unrelentingly throughout the day.  It dropped the temperature to around 70, which was still nice and we had a great day of hiking, climbing, and going into town for some ice cream.  As sunlight waned and we wrapped up our outdoor meal and group activities, the wind continued to blow and temperatures began to drop noticeably.

We crawled into our tent and bedded down around 10:30, listening to the javelinas roam through camp and sniff around the tents for any morsels we may have left about.  A few minutes later the pitter-patter of rain drops began to hit the tent.  This is where my lack of preparation began to rear its head.  I had not packed the rainfly for our tent, so drops coming through the vents and hitting our face are what stirred us from an early slumber.  Fortunately, I did have some duct tape and I was able to install a makeshift cover to hold us over.

As I finished up the tape job, the rain began to turn to sleet with the wind continuing its assault on the valley and the temperature continuing to drop.  As the storm blew through, we heard some of the longest running wraps of thunder echoing through the canyons of the Davis Mountains.  We managed to add a few layers of clothing and wrap up in our sleeping bags for a night’s sleep.  Not a good night, but we managed a little shut-eye once the thunder subsided.

Waking the next morning, I expected to find our chores of tearing down and loading up to be a wet and somewhat cold affair.  What I did not expect was the next surprise Fort Davis weather had in store.  Upon exiting our tent, I stepped into a four-inch blanket of snow that had been deposited and was still being deposited by some of the biggest snowflakes I had ever seen.  Another member of our group had their tent collapse on them under the weight of the snow, and we all had a time getting out of camp that morning.  Despite the circumstances, we had our fun with some snowball fights and rolling around in the winter wonderland before departing for some more comfortable digs back home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Image result for camping pictures

Camping Gear - What to Bring for your Next Adventure

It can be peaceful to spend time in the wilderness, away from it all.  As enjoyable as it is to sleep in a tent and cook over a fire, you will need some specific camping equipment to use while you spend time away from home.

Sleeping bags - sleeping bags come in variety of sizes, colors, and ratings for temperature.  If you’re camping in cold temperature, purchase a bag that’s rated for the expected overnight low.  If the temperatures are milder, your sleeping bag should be rated for warmer weather.  Some bags have special pouches to keep valuables safe and dry.

Sleeping Pads - If the idea of sleeping on the ground isn't appealing, you'll need a pad to place under your sleeping bag. Pads add a layer of insulation to keep you warm and also provide extra cushioning for comfort.

Tent - Unless you plan on sleeping under the stars, you will need some sort of shelter. A tent works well for protection from insects and precipitation. Tents vary in size, so select one that will accommodate the number of people in your party. Tents also have special features such as a rainfly that allows you to open the top for extra ventilation, or close it to keep out rain.

Cookware - You might not want to pack your best cookware for preparing food over an open fire, but you will need pots and pans to boil water and cook meals. Anodized aluminum and cast iron are two options. Don't forget plates, mugs, and silverware.

These are the biggest essentials as far as camping in the great outdoors.  Make sure to check out GearedForOutdoors.com for all of your outdoor camping gear.