Creating an Enjoyable Camping Experience

As school ends, the camping season begins in earnest for most families. Combined with any number of other summer-friendly activities – hiking, fishing, biking, rollerblading, canoeing, and others – camping is a great activity to bring the whole clan together.
A couple reminders, in no particular order, as I’m sitting here pondering some outings of my own.
Breeze is very helpful in providing air conditioning to one’s tent accommodations, as well as helping keep bugs at bay. Too much wind, however, can be a real pain.
And remember a strong east wind (unusual, but they do exist) makes canoeing on the Platte downright ugly. A strong south or southeast wind (much more common) can do the same to a planned trip on the Elkhorn River.
Speaking of boating, Nebraska regulations require a personal flotation device on board for each boater, but many do not wear them for a variety of reasons.
As we have been recently reminded by local events, large lakes can be very big obstacles for the impromptu swimmer attempting to get back to shore without help.
While I generally consider myself a good enough swimmer to save myself, cold water can turn a challenge into a much more difficult heroic act. And when saving others, it certainly helps to not have to tread water oneself. Thus a PFD on even an accomplished swimmer will allow them to concentrate on other people or valuable items thrown into the water.
And while discussing being doused, it might be a good time to remember to pack your cell phone into a sealed plastic bag if you feel the need to take it anywhere near the water, even if not planning to actually get wet yourself.
A few years ago a fish pulled a rod from my daughter’s hands into the lake and it began heading off shore. Without a thought, I jumped in after it, realizing only when I got back to shore that my cell phone was in my pocket and now worthless.
Another pitfall this time of year is poison ivy. I’m frequently amazed at the number of people who spend a lot of time outdoors, but still do not recognize the demon vine (which can also grow upright as a self-standing plant). It is literally all over the State Lakes and Hormel Park and the rest of the area.
And while many claim not to be affected by the stuff, that can change on a dime and the agony that follows is not to be underestimated.
“Leaves of three, let it be” is a good adage, and if you even think you may have come into contact with it, wash all your clothing including shoes and do the same to your body a soon as possible.
The oil from poison ivy can remain viable in your shoe or bootlaces for years, and burning the plants out can put it into the smoke and inhaling it can give you a horrible case as well.
Bugs are a frequent pest outdoors and mosquitoes and gnats can be the most annoying. One excellent strategy can be to park a screen house over a standard tent. The double barrier can help guarantee a good night’s sleep as even one or two ‘skeeters in a tent is a recipe for trouble.
Better than that is the use of a Thermacell device. For about $30 or less, you can get a Thermacell and some butane cartridges and repellent mats and be good to go. The smell is not offensive to humans but will keep the mosquitoes at bay. I absolutely would not be without one on days with light or no wind.
To blunt gnats, just take along some cooking vanilla and apply a small portion of the pleasant-smelling liquid to around the eyes (not in the eyes, mind you) and anywhere else the pesky bugs like to attack.
And while a tarp erected over your tent will have zero effect on insect pests, the extra shade provided can reduce the temperature inside your nylon home immensely, and make a big difference in comfort.
Tarps can be used for so many purposes, including ground clothes and shelter, that having a few along on any outing will usually find them being used for something.
With a little preparation, one can enjoy nature without feeling like it’s a fight for survival. And with these minor precautions, the camping trip can become much more attractive to all members of your party and not just the ones who enjoy roughing it.