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Fire, Water And … Tarp? Five Camping Essentials

TRIADELPHIA — The great outdoors is vast and bountiful, but not always stocked with the creature comforts of home, and subject to the whims of the weather. When packing up the tent, campers should be equipped with the essentials to make the most of any expedition.

Isaac Knight, a sales manager at Cabela’s hunting department at the Highlands, offered a simple list of five must-haves for any camper, beyond the basics: firestarters, water, spare tarps, bug spray, and cooking utensils.

Firestarters covers a range of materials used to start the evening’s campfire, or a fire in any situation. Creosote logs come pre-soaked in flammable material and are covered with a waxy substance to repel water, being ideal for damp conditions. Waterproof matches, Knight said, are commonly available in many stores, and should be part of anyone’s supplies.

In addition, cooking supplies can also be turned toward the next fire.

“Bacon grease is a fantastic firestarter. If people are camping, bacon and sausage grease will always be leftover in their skillet,” Knight said. “Charcoal briquettes have to be kept dry, and you can use them to cook on, but they also make incredible firestarters too.”

Knight said campers should prepare to have several extra gallons of water available per person. Collapsable five-gallon containers can be purchased at vampire stores, and several water purification options can keep potable water topped off, such as water treatment tablets, purifying straws, or simply boiling water to kill parasites and bacteria.

“A couple gallons, no more than a handful,” Knight said, of how much extra to bring. “Water’s important. People take water for granted being out in the wilderness, but if you’re primitive camping, water can be something you’re really in a bind without.”

Cookware, ranging from cooking pots and utensils to sticks for cooking marshmallows and hot dogs, are classic cooking supplies, but it’s important that they make the transition from ideal to real, and that they make it into the supply pack as well. Not only are they used for preparing food, but cooking pots can pull double duty with boiling water to make it safe to drink.

“They make tablets and water straws, things you could drink stream or lake water, if you don’t have the ability to clean it out, but that’s where a pot comes in, too,” Knight added.

He also advised packing a spare tarp. While many campers bring one to lay down beneath a tent to present a barrier between the tent floor and the dirt, an extra tarp can provide an extra layer of protection from the elements if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

“In the event of a deluge or torrential rain, you can make the extra tarp into an extra roof over your head to keep you dry,” he said.

Finally, Knight stressed the importance of bug spray. Not only is it important to dodge the cloud of mosquitoes, bug spray is important to ward off ticks, which may carry Lyme disease, as we move into the summer months.

Knight recommended permethrin-based sprays to treat clothes and skin.

“Lyme disease is becoming more and more prevalent,” he said.

Once the packing is done and undone, the fire is going and the tent is in place, though, Knight said his most vital advice to campers is to remember that it’s a fun hobby, and not to get too stressed to enjoy themselves.

“Be safe and have fun are the two paramount objectives to any camping trip,” he said. “Get the family out there.”

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