Wednesday, October 27, 2021

It's all Magic

Tricks are a combination of ‘slight of hand’ skill and knowledge others don’t have ( secrets ).

Real magicians won’t show you how they do their tricks. One reason is if they did you would no longer be in awe of their seemingly mystical abilities.

Knowledge really is power. Imagine a cave man who figures out how to ‘make fire’. Would he rush off to show his clan how to do it? Maybe not. He might keep it a secret and just reveal that he ‘can’ create fire not ‘how’. Wouldn’t everybody be amazed and even imagine that he has some divine power bestowed upon him by the powers of the universe.

Some of us are teachers and we gladly show others how to do things ( and often end up being very under appreciated, I might add ;-). Others of us are more secretive and keep our knowledge to ourselves. 

The secret to creating fire may have been past down through the generations from father to son. I can imagine that family wielding great power in a given community. Then one day one of the decedents reveals the ‘secret’ to maybe a friend and all the power of the secret is lost. His friend tells others and before you know it everybody knows how to make a fire. And in fact, at some point, anyone who does not know how is considered stupid. 

Very quickly, knowledge and secrets can go from being power to, take it for grant it, common sense. I’ve always been somewhat amazed at how quickly people forget who taught them one notion or another. We often just incorporate knowledge into our gray matter without so much as a thank you to those who teach us.

Well in the age of the Internet you have all sorts of knowledge available to you. However there is a different problem. Finding just one secret is like looking for a marigold in a field of sunflowers. It’s the ‘too much’ knowledge problem. And if you think Google is good at sorting it out for you, well you are sadly mistaken. They will give you 'popular' results not necessarily ‘good’ results.  

Over many years I have collected an array of camping tricks and secrets and organized them into a nice tidy website: 

camping tips button

and a Youtube videocamper channel. If you camp, you are just completely silly to not take a little time snooping around these gems filling up your 'mental' camping ‘bag of tricks’, with free knowledge.

And far and away the best camping trick I can tell you is get a good chuck box! That not only makes it so much easier to go but also gives you that all important table space once out in the boonies. You don’t forget key items and you go more often which are tremendous benefits. 

So the moral of this story is "it's all magic" - get our secrets and Go Camping!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

How to do a Bike - Hike

She came to Arizona from Oregon via covered wagon. I once asked her what it was like to ride in a covered wagon. She responded by telling me you didn’t actually get to ride ‘in’ the wagon, as that was for the family belongings, but instead you walked beside it. Thus, basically she walked from Oregon to Arizona when she was between the ages of six to eight. I’m referring to my grandmother whom I lived with when I was younger for different periods of time but mostly in summers.

Their trip took two years because they had to stop ever now and then to earn some bucks for the continued trip and I guess her dad was kind of sickly so he had to rest. Still, can you imagine basically ‘camping’ your way to Arizona? Well I can because I backpack and it’s pretty amazing how much ground you can cover in a given day. However, you don’t have a wagon full of belongs  to worry about when really just hiking your way along a trail.

I have a friend who recently hiked the Arizona trail which is 500 plus mile across the state north/south. The elevation changes is pretty incredible though. She did have the benefit of various stores and stashes along the way. 

I mention this because one of the things most of us enjoy when camping is hiking. And these days some of us even like biking. And others of us have even been known to plan trips around both of those activities. 

With me, it started out when my two sons were younger. I would find a place where we could haul them and their bikes up in the truck to a high point and they could ride their bikes back down on a pretty decent dirt road. ( As I remember, Mount Elden in Flagstaff was one of our first adventures. ) 

Then as they grew up and became entangled in their own lives, I started doing such things alone. It was a big realization when it dawned on me that with a little research you could figure out places where the bike could be stashed up high and the vehicle down low. This gives one the ability to hike from the truck to the bike, then ride the bike back to the truck. Down is good for biking. ;-)

Google Earth turns out to be a great tool for helping you research and plan out you bike-hiking efforts. Be sure to use the 3D view so you don’t end up overlooking the fact that there could be a monster canyon between you and whatever you're trying to go. This new video will give you a better idea about that sort of thing:

Another potential big advantage is you can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time with the opportunity to hike country that is normally not viewable from a road or even a trail. Us hunter types tend to like this ability. We don’t generally hike on trails anyway preferring to venture out across hill and del, so to speak. And using the Bike-Hike concept one can cover twice the amount of unfamiliar ground. Here’s an older Bike-Hike video example:

So basically what we have here is just another excuse to get out and have some fun. You might even find the kids will pull their heads out of the phones long enough to feel the wind in their hair on that fun ride down.

Go Camping! 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Camping with BUGS.

The thing about camping is you have to share the forest with it’s permanent residence which includes BUGS.

It seems that bugs are just one of those inconveniences we just have to learn to negotiate. One technique is just don’t go camping when they are really bad. In Arizona, where I camp, I simply will not go in June. That’s when those oh so pesky ‘no-see-ems’ gnats are so predominate. Can’t tell you why but they just love my angles and elbows. They are at their worse in late May and June right up till the monsoons start. 

Therefore, my first major bug mitigation practice is don’t go camping then. In my case this works out real good because the high winds and hot weather of June tend to cause at the least 'no camp fire restrictions' if not total forest closures. Additionally, June isn’t loaded with hunting seasons or other reasons to camp so it’s really a great month to get things in order in camping anticipation, so to speak.

The second biggest mitigation practice is, not surprisingly, clothing. Covering the skin is all but obvious solution to biting bugs.  Incidentally, I usually wear boots and blouse the bottom of my trousers to stop the aforementioned ‘angle biting’ problem. 

In July the monsoons usually start up cooling things off, washing the dust out of the trees and putting me back in the forests. In the warmer months ( when bugs are usually the worst )  I’ll tend to set up my camps in an area where you might have a bit of a breeze ( which is exactly the opposite of what one would do in colder months ) . Bugs hate wind though.

They also hate fire so it’s good to have a fire going even in the daytime if bugs are being pesky. This is one of the critter control ideas for you on our camping tips website. There is a great tip there for at least staying bug free while sleeping.

The mosquitoes tend to become more of a problem as the summer wears on and into fall. Interestingly, I have found ‘mud’ to be a great treatment for their bites. Put it on till it dries and that will tend to stop the itching. I also have “Flonase” ™ in my Camping First Aid Kit which really helps treat bites of all sorts. ( I think it has something to do with the steroids they use in it. )

Bugs represent little to no problem when 'winter camping' which is one of the reasons I do a lot of that.

Honestly, bug mitigation is not unlike a lot of life, you need a bunch of little tricks, some subtle and some not so subtle. 

As I have gotten older I have come to realize that the creatures out there all have a purpose and very likely were put here for reasons that far exceeds my ability to perceive them.  Therefore, I don’t let their presence and annoyances frustrate me. Instead I have developed practices that minimize their negative impact. 

Let me also mention that BUGS are probably the top I Hate Camping reasons I have encountered from non-camping friends and acquittances.

Don't let the bugs win, Go Camping!    

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Camping with Kids

Consider how you would like the camping trip to go both from your perspective and the kids. Keep in mind we are creatures of habit thus both you and your kids will probably just do and act as you always do unless you find a way to make it something special. I suggest you ‘set up‘ a situation that promotes the ‘camping and together aspect’ of your campouts. It should be about experience the outdoors, living without the usual amenities, getting by with just what you need and mostly importantly, experiencing the ‘presence’ of each other.

( Been a few years since we did this trip ;-)

The Making of the Rules

The first problem to solved might very well be our own compulsive nature. There is a fine line between protecting and hovering when it comes to kids. In camping circles this becomes even more evident. After all, camping hazards abound, right? Actually, not really and if you spend a little time learning what the real camping hazards are and pay attention, you will find them quite manageable.  

The better job you do of teaching your kids what to be careful of the less hovering you have to do. Thus the more you know about where you are camped and what to look for the easier it is to teach them. Are there poisonous snakes or poison ivy, for example. Research is a good thing.

Throughout our lives and ever so much today, we have seen potential dangers mitigated with rules. ( Never cross the street without looking both ways. Don’t go swimming after eating.  Where your mask. Etc..) To that end one should entertain the possibility of making a few rules. No cell phones would be a good starting point but that might be a little harsh for this generation of kid so you might just try limiting the use to specific  times. ( If you are lucky you’ll be camped where there is no service ;-) 

If old enough, you might ask them to make the camping rules. Make sure you have maybe a clipboard with pencil and paper.  And I’m sure you’ll have a few you’ll want to insert as well like the ever favorite: 

  • Do not venture out beyond the sight of camp. 
  • And watch out for each other.

Here is an example of the kind of list you might get from the kids ( depending on their ages ): 

( A wonderful friend of mine has these rules framed and placed on a wall in her house. I spent considerable time tracing a really bad copy of them with my Wacom pen in an effort to preserve the original look and spirit of them. )

So the trick with kids is to give them enough room to have fun without you having to worry about them getting hurt.

The other big concern is entertainment.

One thing the kids might really enjoy is building a little fort of one kind or another. This offers a little designated seclusion place where they can hang out away from all those compulsive grown ups.  It’s a win-win, you know where they are and they don’t have to put up with you.

Frisbees, kites, squirt guns  and the like can offer up a lot of daytime entertainment. Just keep in mind, what they really want is just to spend time with you. In my opinion cards and board games are best played on a picnic table under the shade of big tree. You might need to mitigate the breeze though.

Also plan a hike or two just because it’s a good habit for both them and you to develop.

For my money the nighttime fun is the best. though. Just keep in mind it is suppose to be dark at night. That’s how you get to see all those twinkling dots over head. Occasionally one of them shoots across the sky, or so it seems. ( Our Go Camping calendar/planner has the main meteor shower dates in it.) 

Also a telescope is a great thing to have along but a lot of wonder can be had with just binoculars or a spotting scope if you learn where to look at night.  

Eating can also be great entertainment both day and night. However, much of the entertainment value lies in how things get prepared. Hot dogs or marshmallow cooked on sticks are must do's. Pop corn cooked in a Dutch oven on camp fire coals  and foil wrapped meals just seem to amaze young minds. And it’s as much fun making and cooking camp donuts as eating them.     

Take your kids and Go Camping!


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Life is all about Bandwidth!

Being an old electronics teacher I’m very familiar with the term “bandwidth” in a technical sense from teaching radio theory. Anecdotally, the term is used ‘technically’ in reference to creating or selecting a single transmitted signal from many. In effect it has to do with getting just one radio station or TV channel from the many that are being transmitted simultaneously. Interestingly you don’t just tune in one frequency, you actually tune in a narrow ‘band’ of frequencies. 

In an everyday usage, for most people bandwidth refers to just having the time to do the things you need and want to do. However, I think of bandwidth as being a little more than just enough time because to me it also implies there is some skill level involved. This makes sense because skill is mostly the ability to do something well and in the most efficient way. Therefore, a skilled worker uses minimum bandwidth to do a given job.

So all those things I ‘must do’ everyday effect how much bandwidth I have available for what I ‘want to do’. In other words if one is efficient and thus can do the ‘work’ things quickly then there is more time for the ‘fun’ things. 

When camping you typically have a finite amount of time to do an often numerous amount of things. Thus, we develop systems and routines to create a natural consistent work flow for doing these things from one time to the next. 

As mentioned in my How to Design, Build and Outfit Your Own Camp Kitchen book, fifteen minutes is my ‘get it done’ goal. Fifteen minutes to load the gear, fifteen minutes to unload and setup camp, fifteen minutes to breakdown and load gear and fifteen minutes to put it all away at home. 

So if I meet my fifteen minute goals I still end up devoting an entire hour of bandwidth to the ‘work part’ of the camping routine for most trips. Obviously, if you want to camp a lot, say at least once a month, you must get skilled at the various chores and thus minimize your bandwidth requirements. 

There are three main concerns when setting up camp: 
  1. the living quarters. (tent, sleeping bags, personal stuff etc. ) 
  2. the camp kitchen. ( the hard part ) 
  3. campsite prep and layout ( fire pit, wood etc. ) 

Typically, in my camps, I handle the kitchen while everybody else works on the tent or preparing the campsite. 

From a bandwidth perspective, a chuck box is the best camping investment you can make. Once outfitted, you will find it very easy to transport, set up quickly and it also makes for easy cooking and cleanup. There is a lot more information on our camping gear and equipment webpage about this.

 ‘Devices’ can really help minimize bandwidth requirements but they can also weight you down. More is not always better. 

Also, a way to create more bandwidth for yourself is through crew training. However, help only helps if it’s good. (Dah.;-) We have to teach people what to do, you know? 

Camping has actually made me much better at narrowing my bandwidth requirements in all aspects of my life. I constantly evaluate and examine tasks and chores of my workplace in an effort to be more efficient. 

Life ( and camping ) are really all about bandwidth. While you can’t really make more time you can use the time you have more efficiently. In a technical sense I would call this narrowing the bandwidth. 

Here is hoping your camping trips resonate at a frequency that finds you in the company of campers on the same wavelength over a wide spectrum of wonderful outdoor situations with minimum glitches. ( Sorry..... it’s that old electronics teacher in me. ;-) 

Go Camping!

Monday, February 15, 2021

A Camping Story

 I have many of them, you know. Some would raise the hair on the back of your neck like when we got ourselves caught in an Arizona Flash Flood. Others are associate with music festivals and group gatherings of one kind or another. Still others are family reunion and hunting trips. ( Those are kind of the same thing in my family circle. )

There is a state I call ‘pure time’. It’s really a state of consciousness more than anything. It defies definition except by example, I suppose. Here is one of my ‘pure time’ experiences that happened a few years back while camping at Pickin’ in the Pines ( my favorite bluegrass festival ). 

There I was, standing by myself  at camp, after having just strapped on my D-28 ( that’s a guitar ). At bluegrass festivals normally, one would have been out jamming with a bunch of other folks by then but I think we had just returned from the contra dance. ( That’s another thing I like to do. ;-) I am sure it was after 11:00 PM or so. As often happens at festival camps, up walks a couple of my pickin’ friends. It was two of the better musicians I know, Reno McCormick and John Kennedy. Now Reno is probably the best guitar player that I have actually played with but on this night he was armed with a mandolin as was John even though he is probably most often seen with a fiddle. John has been known to judge fiddle contest occasionally so that qualifies him as an rather accomplished  fiddler too. They both know I like to flat pick fiddle tunes and I am guessing they just wanted to practice up on their respective mandolin chops and knew I would make a fitting host for such efforts. 

Now mind you, I am not a great guitar player, in fact, no where near the caliber of their musicianship. Still I have figured out that even simple versions of these songs sound wonderful when played clean and up to speed with other musicians. Also, if you can play good rhythm guitar you tend to be highly appreciated in pickin’ circles. Therefore, that’s what I try to do. We played Bill Cheatum, Rag Time Annie, Billy in the Low Ground, Golden Slippers and a number of other very traditional and quite common, even ubiquitous, tunes.  

In the basic bluegrass style, typically, one musician will pick the melody of the song while everybody else strums chords for the rhythm. You take turns at pickin’ it, so to speak. And after everybody plays the given melody a time or two through a couple instruments might pick it together. Or maybe one guy will play the first half of the song and the another guy plays the second. Essentially you end up playing quite a number of different variations  of the same melody. It all gets mixed together like a Cajun stew sort of ‘on the fly’ in real time so to speak.

As you might imagine, it is very important to focus and pay attention to what the other musicians are doing. These bluegrass type sessions are played at light speed, especially with Reno, thus require a good deal of concentration from a marginally adequate musician like me. 

A song or two into this particular session and there I was basking in ‘pure time’. I wasn’t thinking about what I did wrong that day, whether I was hunger, how I was going to pay the rent that month, who I was going to vote for etc.. Consciously I  was in something of a mental auto pilot mode just playing and ‘taking it all in’. Honestly, if you had just shot me then and there I would have died a very happy man.

I supplied the chords while those guys passed the lead back and forth or one would pick the melody while the other played a harmony on top of it. And they would throw the lead to me and chunk out the chords as I picked it.  It was equally gratifying picking the melody or listening to them as I provided the rhythm. Saying, ‘it was fun’ is an gross understatement. Don’t think I have every picked that well before or since. Somehow you tend to ‘play up’ when picking with good musicians like those guys. 

Music to me is a little like magic and let me tell you those two were definitely playing magician that night. I got to be the ‘lovely assistant’ and even contribute a trick or two into the mix.

That’s ‘pure time’, all you are thinking about is what you’re doing and you’re doing something you really like, and it goes on for a while suspending you in a state of timeless bliss. When it’s done you feel cleansed and relaxed like having a body massage followed by a sauna and a shower in a mental sense, so to speak. Your mind has been momentarily purged of all those mundane, pesky thoughts that can so riddle everyday consciousness. 

I have noticed you can’t just conjure up ‘pure time’ at will. Well, at least I can’t. Instead you setup conditions conducive to producing it. Watching the sun come up has probably been the most frequent occurrence for me. But I have experience it while chasing quail around for an afternoon with my youngest son, telling stories around a camp fire, running a roller coaster rapid on the Colorado, laughing at jokes with great friends under a camping canopy, watching night fall at 11:00 in the morning at a solar eclipse ...... 


If you put yourself in the right situations ‘pure time’ will come. Go Camping!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

"Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach"

My Grandfather use to have all these cool sayings like that one. As a hungry kid I would load my plate up to the brim only to find my stomach would totally fill up half way through eating it. ( That was an egregious sin by the way. You had to "eat everything on your plate".) In business, I have a similar problem, except 'my mind is bigger than my head'

As each new year begins, I always ponder the business strategy for the coming year. You know, things like how do I get more page views, video hits, customers, social connections etc.. And I'll always come up with what seems like a good plan. Like many plans it invariably gets tangled up in that ever so demanding  world of every day life. It's just amazing how those mundane time consuming chores like cleaning the toilet, sweeping the shop, even just brushing your teeth and such all sum up to way more than you might think.  This means my business is always plagued by the 5 by 10 rule where any project of value will involve five times more effort and take ten times longer than originally thought.  It's true.  

I've been in business since 1988 and on the internet since 1996. Yeeeesh.... Here is the story if you ever care to read it. During that time I have collected a lot of what us website developers call 'content'. Here is a website I put up last year that essentially has a lot of this 'older' content and even format of my earliest websites. 

Let me point out that the content is just as relevant now as it has ever been. There is some good stuff there. Backyard Camping is a great way to get preflighted for any coming camping season. My Arizona Flash Flood story is a cautionary tale all campers should know and consider. And I have even been working on some newer pages like "I HATE Camping!" ( There are people that actually say that and mean it. )

This year will no doubt bring some more content along those lines, more Youtube videos especially of the 'how to' variety and maybe even a newsletter every month? Naaaah that's always the lowest priority. ( It is still part of the plan, though. :)  

Nonetheless, one part of my business plan will always happen. It's the "go camping a lot part". Wonder why that is? ;-) Well, at least we get to experience the videos I take from all that camping. And ten years from now I am really going to be glad I took those pictures. 

The 2021 Calendar/Planner video is pretty cool if I do say so myself. 

Go Camping!