Thursday, October 19, 2006

Out in the woods

So, I love camping.

I’ve hiked and camped through both the AZ and NH white mountains, the Adirondacks, the Alleghenys, the Great Smokies, the Rockies and various subranges like the Sangre de Cristos; and several places on uncles dime. I’ve lived out in the rough for a few weeks at a time even.

Unfortunately, all of that experience is now at least 8 years old, and most of it is really roughing it; with minimal equipment, and mostly consumables for weight.

Backcountry wilderness stuff basically; and entirely unsuitable for camping with the family.

It’s been even longer than that (since scouting), since I’ve done any heavyweight camping.

Well, it looks like the wife and I are going to be doing some truck camping, up in northern Arizona this November; but probably making it a regular occurance, all throughout the southwest and mountain states.

So, we’ve picked up our sleeping bags (actually we’ll be zipping two “king” sized sleeping bags together); and I have a general idea of what I want to get; but other than flashlights, knives, rope, and other survival type gear, it’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve bought any outdoors gear and I don’t know what’s currently good, or a good value.

So what I’m looking for is the heavy weight camping gear for two people, to camp in comfort in most weather; and be able to entertain ourselves and some friends, and store and prepare enough food and beverages for said folks.

We’ll be doing this out of a Ford Expedition, full size SUV; with a luggage rack, but no trailer (kind of hard to get into and out of some places with a trailer).

1. Housing: The first thing, is an SUV tent. We plan on sleeping in the SUV; but having an attached SUV tent, for gear, dressing room, ventilation etc… and for when the girls are camping with us. I’m trying to decide between the Napier/sportz, and the Cabelas models; or get info on any other models you folks know of.

2. Sleeping: Second thing, is an air bed for the truck. Should I just get a decent quality regular air mattress, or shell out for one of those truck bed mattresses that’s fit to the bed of the SUV

3. Cooking: I’ve had a bunch of different types of camp stoves before, but almsot all smaller packable models. The base camp/outfitter type that I also have experience with is way too big. I don’t mind having to depend on canister fuel so long as that fuel is reasonably available and reasonably inexpensive; but I want to be ablt to comfortably cook a two pan meal for four.

4. Cooling/refrigeration and food storage: So the current plan is a medium size camping cooler, and a powered peltier cooler that we can run off the trucks power to give us active refrigeration. Personally I’m thinking cold packs not ice, because they last longer and aren’t as messy; and a base of dry ice covered with towels. I’m wondering about peoples experience with different coolers, and cooler techniques, and their experience with the portable refrigeration units

5. Power: I’m looking for a decent quality inverter for the truck, with a reasonable capacity for say, two laptops, maybe some small power tools, a ham rig, and maybe a portable TV at some point etc… (though I’m more likely to just build a TV into the truck when time allows). I’m also looking for a small, quiet, relatively inexpensive generator, that will support our general power needs, and will also allow us to recharge the trucks battery. Plus, it wil be used as part of my emergency bugout kit. I may grab some solar charging panels as well, and any experiences or recommendations there will also be appreciated.

6. Seating and other accomodations: I’ve got some decent folding camp chairs, but my experience with folding camp tables has been almost universally negative. Any recommendations?

7. Lighting: I’m a flashlight nut, and I’ve got enough for a small army, but I don’t have any lanterns, either electric or gas; at least not that aren't of the “spotlight” type. I’m very interested in modern LED based lanterns, but gas/propane/butane lanterns work too. Any recommendations or experiences?

8. Waste management: I’m looking for a portable toilet system. I’ve always been a trench in the ground kind of guy; but that’s often not even possible ; and it’s a bit hard on the knees (and on the ladies). My first inclination is a 5 gallon bucket chemical toilet, because they’re cheap, they work, and they’re relatively comfortable, but I’m open to suggestions.

9. Water management: I’m familiar with a ton of filter and storage systems, but if anyone has any particular recommendations, I’m all ears

10. Pet management: We want to sometimes take the dog with us, and I’m wondering about a good portable dog run or stake system. Something that will let him run around within a limited range, but not wander off; or wander onto an active firing range.

What else? Yes I know all the basic stuff. I have tons of first aid, and survival items. Knives, hatchets, small saws, machetes, various ropes and cords, hurricane candles, sterno, emergency batteries, purel hand sanitizer, and tons of babywipes and shop towels; spare EVERYTHING etc…

But what am I missing? What am I not thinking about? What should I have that I havent mentioned?

Also any tips, tricks, experience that you want to share, I’m listening.