Five Ways to Enjoy Your Summer Vacation – Outdoors, on the Cheap and Close to Home
Gas prices at $4 per gallon. New fees for checked luggage. The dollar weakening against the Euro. It’s no wonder that American families are planning more close-to-home adventures this summer. And where better to go than to the great outdoors? Spend a few days or a week camping in a local park or forest, and the whole family can reconnect with nature — and each other — while enjoying fresh air and healthy activities like hiking, swimming, and canoeing.
The best news: A family of four can pull off an amazing outdoor adventure for less than the price of box seats, parking, and dinner at a baseball game. If you already own camping gear, an entire week in your local state park or national forest can cost as little as $400: That’s $75 for campground fees, $250 for burgers and s’mores, $50 for gas, $20 for firewood, and $5 for nightcrawlers. And you’ll bring home better souvenirs — Dad and Timmy flipping the canoe, little Jane catching a frog, and a scrapbook full of other lifelong memories.
To help new campers plan a local adventure, Backpacker Magazine offers these five tips for finding, outfitting, and enjoying the perfect campsite.
1. Rough it. To avoid crowds and noisy RV caravans, scan the map for
small, out-of-the way state and national forest campgrounds, which get
less traffic and often have better scenery. Campgrounds without
electrical hookups and other RV-centric amenities are also great for
quiet-loving tent campers. Prefer something more rustic? Most Bureau of
Land Management lands allow free, unrestricted camping wherever you
want to pitch your tent. Prefer to escape the road altogether? With
more than 2,000 trip options, Backpacker.com/hikes is the place to find
the ideal trail near you for true wilderness camping (or for just a
2. Beat the crowds. Reserve campsites in advance through Reserve America
(reserveamerica.com), or arrive midday Sunday — when the weekend crowd
is clearing out — to get the best sites in the campground.
3. Don’t own camping gear? Rent it. Many outfitters, including REI’s all
over the country, rent tents, sleeping bags, packs, and other gear. It
cuts initial costs and lets you experiment before buying.
4. Pack early so you don’t forget the essentials, like these five
must-have items for car camping:
Not sure what else to pack? Print the appropriate gear checklist from
5. Make the ultimate s’more. Whether you’re car camping or backpacking, no
trip is complete without this much-loved campfire dessert. One of our
favorite recipes is “S’mores in a Bag,” which you can largely prepare
before leaving home. Take 1/2 Cup crumbled graham crackers (about 1 1/2
crackers), 1/4 Cup chocolate chips, and 1/4 Cup chopped, toasted
walnuts. Combine all ingredients and divide evenly into two small
oven-roasting bags. When camping, squeeze air from bags, make sure the
bags are securely closed and submerge them in hot water until the
chocolate has melted. Remove the bags from the water and eat with a
spoon. Go to backpacker.com for more trail-inspired recipes.
CHARCOAL FIRE STARTER
Cardboard egg carton
Place a charcoal briquette in each compartment of the egg
carton. Pour melted paraffin to soak charcoal and carton. Allow to harden.
Tear off compartments as needed and place within charcoal or wood to be lit.
Light carton to start fire.
1 fistfull = 1/2 cup
5 finger pinch = 2/3 tsp.
4 finger pinch = 1/2 tsp.
3 finger pinch = 1/8 tsp.
1 finger gob shortening = 1/4 tsp.