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! 

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Secret to Happiness - Less News, More Camping!

So begins another year. Seems to me it's started off pretty much as they always do. Resolutions, hopes, expectations and dreams abound. That is as it should be. So let me offer up my normal routine and help you plan out your camping year with our 2021 calendar/planner. Here's the promotional video: 

And here is a link the PDF:

2021 Calendar/Planner Link

It should open in a new window. ( Be sure you SAVE IT before you close it. )

As far as making this a better year.....well my plan is to turn the TV off and Go Camping!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Y2K - All Over Again?

I brought in the year 2000 out camping which, incidentally, is my favorite way to usher in any new year. Of course, that was the millennium change over thus year 2000 = Y2K, (for those too young to know). As I remember there were predictions of air planes falling out of the sky, doors in stores that wouldn’t open trapping people inside and a host of other mostly mechanical type things that were suppose to happen. 

The 'prepper' ruled as people were buying survival packs, emergency devices, wind generators and RV’s. There were entire trade shows based on the ‘Y2K’ survival mentality.

The whole theory behind the impending disaster was that everything had become computer controlled at least to some extent. Everything from tools and appliances to cars and airplanes had microprocessors in them and nobody had considered what would happen to these various devices when their individual programs had to contend with the possibility of a date they were not programmed to recognize.

Y2K was absolutely incredible. Not the event - the hype, the press, the endless parade of experts predicting potential gloom and doom. Well let me tell you what actually happened. Nothing - absolutely nothing. The year 2000 came and went and the whole decade leading up to it was just an exercise in self generated stress. 

I am thinking this election is very similar. Now I know, no matter who wins, there will be a lot of upset people. However, that was the case last election too. We did somehow survive the whole matter and my bet is we will again.

Still, having your survival issues addressed is really just a prudent thing to do anyway. Thus my food stash is full, I have some extra fuel, cash, ammo and, of course, my camping survival plan is in place. 

As a matter of fact I am heading out tomorrow for a week long deer hunt in the hopes of stocking up the freezer with some venison. ( My granddaughter filled us up with elk a couple of weeks ago. You can’t get too much practice at this survival routine, you know. ;-)

Look at it this way, if it’s four more years of the same crap...well so be it and if it’s four more of different crap well what’s so unusual about that? Yeeeeesh..... let’s get out there camping so we can tone down the stress a notch or two. It’s just another election. After all these elections are always the most important one of our time because NOW is always the most important moment in time.

Don’t waste now! Do something meaningful. Vote, then let the chips fall where they may and Go Camping! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Five Mega Corona Camping Tips.

This corona thing has, in fact, turned a lot of folks to the hills so to speak. I went camping north of Flagstaff last weekend with hunting buddies Don and Taylor. I could not believe the number of people that were in the forest! It seemed as though every available pull off had a camp. Many were archery hunters like us but many we not. Some were biking, some were hiking, some were just enjoying the magnificent monsoon weather. It was good to see.

However, I am told there is a big problem with people leaving their trash and such behind when they leave. Us ‘real campers’ know you do not do that. It seems as though once one person leaves something behind others begin to think it’s perfectly OK to do that. At the very least you could get a ticket for that whether someone else does it or not. “Pack it in - pack it out” even if you are car camping.

And us real campers have to make up for those camping light weights too. I wish I had a nickel for every cigarette butte I have picked up from previous campers. I don’t smoke and nobody I camp with does either. But there is something about smokers that makes them think it’s OK to leave buttes about a camp site. Its not. At least put them in the fire.

So my regular viewers have probably all seen the following web-pages but maybe need a little refresher. New subscribers will definitely want to look over all these Corona Camping Tips. 

1 - Go camping more often.

2 - Eat good. 

3 - Meet  your friends out there. 

4 - Have fun - Day Fun and Nighttime Fun

5  - Avoid real camping hazards

Okay, okay I admit it, they are really not any different than any other tips I give you but they are still good and something every camper should know Corona or not. And there are about eighty camping videos on my VideocamperYouTube channel. All are geared toward getting you out camping more often and/or having more fun doing it.

I’m glad folks have taken the Corona advice I gave back in March. ;-) Go Camping!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

If some is good more is better? NOT!

That is the dumbest phrase ever invented! Not only is it not true, sometimes it is completely wrong. If you don’t believe that try going down to your local ice cream store. (That was Dairy Queen in my era, Cold Stone now, I suppose.) Then order the most decadent thing on the menu, maybe a banana split or hot fudge sundae ( again, my era).  Eat and enjoy it. Then order another one and do the same. If some is good, more is better? No, absolutely not. If some is good, more can make you sicker than a dog.

Now I know some of you are going to ask, what about money? You can’t have too much money, right? Actually you can, because if you had all the money in the world, no one else would have any money to build anything for you to buy. Thus, what good would all that money be? Yeeesh...

This ‘more is better’ way of thinking can be very harmful not just to ourselves as with the ice cream example but to others as well.

I have a couple of reasons for bringing this up. The most important would be this pandemic situation currently confronting us. If nothing else we should have all learned a big lesson in supply and demand. And, it is true, the price of a given commodity is determined by how much people want it ( demand ) vs how much there is ( supply ). Dare I mention the most salient example, toilet paper? Ok, I can see how the ‘more is better’ notion could consume some of us into a buying frenzy in the case of this most trifle, yet if not essential, utterly convenient product.

I am not the only one that noticed the ensuing panic as our fellow residents began to horde such commodities out of the very real fear the store wouldn’t have it if we ran out at home. On a personal  physiological level one can at least understand this hording motive.

The big problem, of course, is the accompanying swell of profiteering that will inevitably occur in such a panic. A friend of mine told me about a guy he saw in Costco when this panic first started. The guy had a big flat cart with all the spaghetti sauce the store had on it and was he headed for checkout. My guess is that sauce ended up on Ebay selling for probably five times more than what he paid for it.  Free enterprise in action? No that’s profiteering where people help create the very demand that depletes the local supply. Then as the supply chain gets choked off the price goes through the roof and they sell their stockpile at a vastly inflated price.

I have no problem with people leveraging supply and demand for profit under normal circumstances. That is really the principle behind most businesses anyway. The stock market does this every day. In this pandemic situation though, it’s making money at the expense of your friends and neighbors. And probably worse yet, empty shelves in the store encourages others of us to horde. In reality, most hordes just gather dust. That helps nobody.

It is just downright predatory  to benefit from the very supply shortage you help create. Especially true, when there are a lot of people in need and in the panic mode . We should just round these profiteers up, take them out in the most remote and harshest place we can find, remove their shoes and let them walk back. Maybe then they will come to understand what it’s like to really need something basic and not be able to get it.

So instead of ‘more is better’ let’s learn from the Goldilocks principle which is truly the most accurate and helpful approach. As I’m sure you remember, Goldilocks had to endure ‘too much’ then ‘too little’ in order to find ‘just right’.

A planned working food stash is not hording. And I am hoping we just learned how it’s really a pretty prudent thing to do. If enough of us do that, it will even benefit people who don’t, by removing us from the demand side of the equation when the next panic hits. Oddly it can even help you eat healthier, save money and most importantly GO CAMPING more! How’s that? Watch the video:

There is a ton of other good information out there on the Internet to further aid you in your stash building efforts. We want to keep a few things in mind:

1. It should be a “working” food stash. That is most of it you continually use and replenish.
2. This means the stock must be appropriate to you and your eating habits..
3. It requires a good deal of planning and work to get it right.
4. It’s important to pay attention and adjust quantities over time.
5. Goldilocks was right.

At some point you might want to consider a stash for when it's so bad you have to actually leave you house. Money would probably be useless. In that case a barter stash for extended periods might not be a bad idea to have.  

The vice type stuff would probably barter well, you know tobacco, alcohol etc.. Personally, I think the currency of a true 'survival mode' barter system will be 12 gauge shotgun shells as they work well for both  putting food on the table and personal protection.

For now though, let's get our in home stash right. 

All the houses I have ever lived in have had food in the pantry and I mean more than just  a little. It’s a ‘mentality' that we grow up with out West. Lets get those cupboards filled up with stuff we will actually use. Then to make sure our working food stash really works, we know how to check it out - GO CAMPING!