Roger Clyne's 34 Family Campin' Tips

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family camping in mexico , palapa and Springbar tent
Strength in numbers: 4 families camping together on the beach in Mexico

I once dumped over the backpacking stove and pot that was boiling a meal for me and my wife a long time ago. We were backpacking in the Superstition Mountains just the two of us, and we were cooking rice for some wicked incredible chicken burritos, a yummy low-brow recipe I fully intend to post in our recipes section one day. Well, I accidently kicked the stove with my boot and put that dinner all over the ground. And you know about backpacking: every ounce is accounted for with rarely any margin in the food. We had just hiked some 10 miles, and the scent of the spices and herbs soaking into the rice got our saliva glands turbo charged. And our dinner was now in a puddle of mud.

And, yep, I screwed up. We ate what we could with titanium forks picking the bits right off the ground and topped it off with sad granola bars.

Camping is rarely a hitch-free activity. And now with kids to keep fed, hydrated and stoked, the stakes are slightly higher because that translates quickly to your relaxation and recharge — or lack of either or both. So who's not always up for some family camping tips to add the arsenal of info? Everyone has their own set of good ideas about the nuances of camping, so we ought to serve up the ideas in a buffet for all.

My stats tell me a healthy percentage of visitors to this space are within these fine boundaries of the state of Arizona, which is why I'm sharing this with you — and it's totally poached from an email that came from Arizona rock-n-roller Roger Clyne of Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers. The band blasted an email out that included a missive from Clyne telling a story of his recent family camping trip. Sure, he's a guy who puts food on the table by playing music, and he's been doing it for a long time. Good chance you know who he is. But more importantly he's also a dad who camps with the whole fam, just like many of us, and he penned this golden list of tips and how-not-to-screw-ups on all matters of family camping in the email today.

Because the email came by way of an address that starts with the cryptic "noreply@", well, I couldn't really reply; it's my confession here that I really have no official green light to give this to you. But there's some gold here (some hilarious, some practical) and wanted to share it with you, badly: elements of a proper cooler, how to be cool to your camp neighbors, and more awesomeness. It's for your entertaiment, enrichment, and for, well, a greater connection with you — good ol' family camping is fun, filled with mistakes and foul-ups all the time and ain't no one immune. And, Mr. Clyne, if you're out there somewhere and this finds you with a furrowed brow, just say the word. I'll dump this one out too.

¡Viva El Verano!
Tips from the Clyne Camp

Roger clying singing songs

  1. Every year I ask, "how did we fit all this sh*t in the car last time?!"
  2. I highly recommend taking or going with a 4WD vehicle. Take a tow strap and a good jack with you, a winch if you've got one. Engage your 4WD before you need it.
  3. Pitch camp in daylight. Find the cardinal directions. Know where the sun rises and sets, and arrange your camp for sun and shade accordingly.
  4. If you're camping in a canyon, it'll get dark earlier than you think. It'll also get chilly as the heavier, cooler air settles down the night comes on.
  5. Rattlesnakes don't negotiate. Don't mess with them.
  6. Pack a good first aid kit.
  7. Bring lots of water. We use 2.5 gallon plastic containers with the pull-dispenser. They collapse well and store easily when they're emptied. Fill canteens and keep them around camp. Having easy access to water keeps the whole camp happily hydrated in the AZ summer. If using water from a stream or other natural source, boil water (2 mins) for coffee, cocoa, cleaning, etc. I also recommend packing a good, portable water filter.
  8. Alas, poison ivy, oak and sumac all grow in Arizona. Get familiar with what they look like and where they grow. Have relief ready in your first aid kit.
  9. Lightning is serious stuff. Get educated about how to stay safe in an back-country electrical storm. An excellent article on preparedness may be found here:
  10. Put flashlights and emergency whistles on lanyards and hang them around the necks of younger campers. Get everyone who doesn't lose theirs (and even those who do) an ice cream cone on the back home.
  11. Say "yes" to bear spray. Make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it. Check expiration dates.
  12. If car-camping, be vigilant that lights and stereos do not kill your battery! Keep a set of extra keys outside the car, too. And make sure everyone knows where they are. Bring jumper cables, just in case.
  13. Always wave to your fellow campers. Albeit temporarily, they're your neighbors and you may have to ask for a cup of sugar, a wine opener, or....
  14. If wine, boxed wine. If beer, canned beer. (No bottles to pack out.)
  15. A good tent is essential. I prefer a free-standing model. Be sure it's weatherproof. Leaky tents are insufferable! Invest in a footprint or adequately-sized tarp to preserve the floor. Also, if you've got gear, get a bigger tent than the # of people you plan to house in it. An 8 person tent is good for 5 campers and their gear. A 6 person tent will house 4. A 4 person tent is good for 2. A 2 person tent is for lovers. Set it up at least once before you go and make sure you've got all the stakes and lines and stuff you need.
  16. All ice-chests are not created equal. Invest in good-quality coolers, use block ice and cube ice together, top off ice at the last stop you make before going off-grid. Keep them in the shade (not in truck bed or hot vehicle) and consolidate contents and ice whenever able. You can keep ice on your beer and soda for a week or more if you're careful.
  17. Profusely thank your camp cook! Never allow the cook to do the dishes! Use vegetable-based, biodegradable soap to clean up.
  18. A cheap PVC rain poncho is the best piece of $3 equipment you can buy. Get one for everybody in your party. Wet is OK. Cold is OK. Wet and cold is NOT OK.
  19. Keep several boxes of matches. Keep them in separate, dry locations.
  20. Try to standardize the type and size of batteries you use for your flashlights and accessories. Check batteries before you go and make sure to bring extras. Remove them from your gear before storing for next trip.
  21. Bring at least one high-powered flashlight or torch. They're very helpful for signaling and for spotlighting large mammals that may rove uninvited into camp.
  22. Bring a shovel. Millions of uses... Saw and axe, too.
  23. It's a pain in the ass, but trench your tent, preferably before it rains! Know how to quickly pitch your rainfly, too.
  24. Collect firewood before it gets dark. Pick up a little every time you wander from camp. Don't cut live wood, don't fell trees. There's plenty of deadfall to fuel your camp. Use little wood to keep big wood lit. Dedicate a tarp to cover your woodpile in case of rain.
  25. Bring insulated welder's gloves to protect your hands from hot rocks, logs, coals, and positioning metal grills in your fire ring.
  26. I prefer propane lanterns to the newer battery-powered models. Pack extra mantles.
  27. Campstove: the simpler, the better. Use your fire whenever possible.
  28. Sleeping bag: get the type with cotton, flannel or brushed polyester lining. Otherwise, if it gets the least bit warm (and it will at sunrise!), you're sleeping and sweating in a plastic bag!
  29. Summer sunrise is earlier than you think, and sometimes earlier than you're ready for!
  30. It's warmer inside the tent, day and night.
  31. Bring a hammock (!) rope and fasteners if you're not a "knot" person.
  32. Invariably, you'll find someone else's junk. Pack out more than you packed in.
  33. BB gun shooting tournaments are a great way to pass time when the fish aren't biting. And they're safer than knife-throwing contests!
  34. Don't forget the S'mores!


+3 / 0
# Robert 2012-08-24 01:53
Very good tips except for number 23, "Trench your tent" Don't do this!Practice Leave no trace ethics to keep our wildlands beautiful.
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Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2012-08-27 22:25
Trenching is most definitely an old method that's no longer acceptable by most backcountry ethics. But outdated tricks die a hard, slow death.
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