By Sandra Hutchinson
Here in northern New York State, we are getting into prime summer camping time. School is out and the best sites have already been reserved, especially on our favorite place to pitch a tent — one of the Lake George camping islands.
After years of camping on the islands with my family, I’d like to offer my list of top ten camping essentials for tent camping. Don’t leave home without these!
1. Headlamps. Who wants to hold a flashlight between your teeth or wedged under your armpit when you’re using two hands to do something like inflate your air mattress? These are basically headbands with a flashlight attached to the front of the band. Ours are from LL Bean; there are many companies that make them.
2. Rope. On most of the island sites, you pitch your tent on a wooden platform, which is often close to the lake and subject to wind. Ever since our first island camping excursion, when our tent was not tied to its platform, the wind came up and the tent started to become airborne like a parachute, I never forget the rope. If you don’t have a platform, then stake the tent. Of course there are many other uses for the rope—tying up the boat, hanging wet towels, etc.
3. Coleman toasting rack. After years of burning toast by holding it over propane stove burners with a fork, I finally found a nifty little device that does a great job. It holds four slices of bread and you set it on top of your camp stove burner. The metal pieces that support the bread heat up and act as toasting elements. It even folds up for storage.
4. Tablecloth clips. Okay, minor, maybe, but these little clips are indispensable to prevent your plastic tablecloth from flying off your picnic table in the wind. See number 2, above.
5. Coleman “kitchen.” I picked this up at the Coleman factory store tent sale, and I’m glad I did. It’s a folding table with legs meant to support your camp stove, a hanging lantern and cooking utensils, and it provides a work or prep surface next to the stove. I love this thing. It allows you to keep your stove off the picnic table, where people are busy doing other things like playing Gin Rummy or Bananagrams.
6. Long butane lighters. If you still use propane lanterns with mantles, as we do, they make the igniting far less likely to burn your fingers than using matches.
7. Folding camp chairs. It’s hard to imagine arriving at the site and only having the picnic table bench for seating. We keep 6 or 8 folding chairs in their carry sleeves on our boat at all times. Some of them even have cup holders. Like cars do.
8. Water jugs with spout. I always purchase a couple of 2.5 gallon plastic jugs with spouts filled with spring water, which perch conveniently on the edge of a picnic table, with the down spout projecting beyond the edge of the table. Good for drinking water, brushing teeth, cleaning up, etc. Seems obvious but easy to forget, especially if you have ready access to clean lake water. Don’t forget to pierce the jug to ventilate it or the water won’t flow out of the spout.
9. Lightweight hammock. It was our younger son and his girlfriend who first brought a lightweight nylon hammock on one of our camping excursions. These are easily strung up between two trees with straps and carabiners. We used one by Eagles Nest Outfitters (“ENO”). Once you get in one of these, you will be forced to relax. You may never want to get out. In fact, you may not be able to get out since the thing hugs you like a cocoon.
10. Locally sourced firewood. In order to prevent the transport of disease and invasive pests, New York state law restricts the transportation of untreated (i.e., not kiln dried) firewood to less than 50 miles from its source. It’s best to purchase wood locally and obtain a receipt that certifies the local source. If you bring wood from your own property, you need to complete a self-issued Certificate of Origin (available on DEC Web site—click here to link).
What are your camping essentials? Let me know by commenting below!