One-Night Camping Perfection

Posted by  Thursday, June 13 2013 4:00 pm
expert

 

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With good planning, the car can be packed for a one-night camping trip in a moment's notice.

The opportunity for outdoor adventure is often thrust upon us without much, if any, warning. That's not necessarily a bad thing; after all, spontaneous trips often prove to be the most fun and exciting. However, being prepared for spur-of-the-moment camping trips should be planned for well in advance if you expect those outings to go smoothly. 

The key to any successful and enjoyable outdoor adventure is preparation. For multi-night camping trips, the planning process is likely to have been performed days or weeks in advance; however, the luxury of advanced planning is nonexistent for spur-of-the-moment one nighters. The key is to get packed now before the next unexpected call to camp arises.

A tent provides the quickest lodging for the one-nighter. Depending on the number of campers normally involved, selecting the proper tent size is simple: add one person to the tent's total capacity. For example, for a family of four, choose a five- or six-person tent. The extra room is used to store gear for the family without time-consuming organizing; just toss the gear bags in and off you go. The small addition of a larger tent is worth the extra weight and packing size, which is not much of either. A jingle to remember is, "One night, go light but right," meaning pack just what is really needed, leave the seldom used extras behind, but be sure to include the basics of comfort to ensure a pleasurable trip.

A good night's sleep is always important, whether one or ten nights on the ground. Inflatable mattresses used to be considered a luxury around the campsite, but with the convenience and rapid accessibility and performance of battery powered air pumps, an air mattress has become an option for the one-nighter. If limited on cargo space in the vehicle, a self-inflating or closed-cell pad is a comfortable alternative. Providing a barrier from small ground contours not seen during the quick tent pitching. Adding a ground tarp under the tent's floor during set up will help in extending the tent's life and the camper's comfort by providing an extra water repellent and cushion.

A three-season sleeping bag is the best choice of bedding possibilities. Though a trip opportunity may arise in July, the night may turn chilly, making it tough for a summer bag to present enough warmth. The three-season bag also gives more comfort against the ground. If lightweight desires are to be lax when packing for one night, then sleeping gear should be considered.

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Planning ahead for spontaneous camping trips leads to a relaxing, enjoyable experience.

Having a checklist is as important a piece of camping gear to have as any, especially when grabbing grub from the home shelves before heading out. When time is limited, don't waste a minute packing unnecessary cans and bags of food that will likely never be used. Consider meals that will occur during the trip. If the journey will begin in the morning and end the next afternoon, no sense in hauling supplies for four breakfasts.

Also consider the target activity if simply camping is not the featured sport. Will you be spending much time at the campsite or will it only be a base camp to drop in on from time to time? If a day pack stocked with cereal bars and a bag of nuts or such will do while hiking, no need to bring a multiple burner stove along and a collection of pots and pans. A one-burner camp stove will suffice as will a small-sized stainless steel cooking set for heating water for instant food mixes.  

Cold storing food and drink is easily handled overnight. Even during the hottest point of the summer, one ice chest will provide the trip's food cooling needs. A 36-quart cooler will provide plenty of storage space for food and drink. Once adjusting contents completed, topping off with as much ice as will possibly fit will ensure the only ice loading necessary.

Avoid the need for stopping and purchasing ice and focus every second on the trip's intent. Same for adequate drinking water supply. A water cooler/jug can be filled in less than a minute before leaving home, which will again leave more time for adventuring later. Include individual water bottles for each camper. For those wanting a bit of zest to their drinks, add a selection of water flavoring packets to the packing list. These flavoring additives also make drinking water fun for the young campers, satisfying numerous campers with one drink means less to pack.

Keeping meals simple doesn't mean they have to be bland. Freeze-dried meals are considered by many to be for backpacking only. Not true. Actually, they are fun, quick and tasty. The advantage for the one-night camper is the readiness factor. When it's time to pack a meal, simply grab the package and you have a total meal in hand.

But just because we're trying to keep things light and quick, don't ignore the Dutch oven or portable grill. The secret to successful cooking with these camp favorites is practice. Take the time to learn how to use them at home occasionally by preparing various meals that are simple to prepare and use few ingredients. Coming back to camp from an hour or two fishing excursion to find supper ready and waiting in the simmering cast iron pot is a treat.

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An air mattress makes for a quick, comfy bed.

To light the one-night campout, choose a battery-powered lantern. Liquid fuel and propane lanterns are fine, but for pre-packed convenience and energized for use, the battery operated LED lantern is best. A couple LED headlamps thrown in the gear box provide hands-free camp setup or trips to the potty. A camp shower is an accessory that is acceptable in the one-night pack. In the warmer months, the bag heats water in only an hour or two and supplies a surprisingly comfortable and refreshing shower.  

Home base storage to the one-night camper is like a shell to a turtle. Assigning a place in the basement or garage for camping gear only does two things; one, it keeps everything at the ready, and two, seeing the gear packed and standing by may be the igniter you need to get out there now and then. Using quality gear bags and rigid containers for storing gear will keep things in good condition both at home and at the campsite. Try a few trial runs at packing the gear in or on the vehicle. It's best to realize what fits best where and in what order well before show time. A simple pencil sketch of the final packing order is nice to keep posted near the camping gear's storage site for future reference. A master packing list kept in a kitchen drawer can be continuously adjusted as trips happen.  

On returning home, pay close attention to what you used and didn't use. Cross the neglected items off your packing list for the next time and add any items you thought of while camping that would have been nice to have along. Repack and restock consumed supplies and clean and repair all gear that needs it. Doing this as soon as possible ensures you're ready when the time offers itself. Taking advantage of the good times optimistically leads to more of them.

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Last modified on Thursday, March 27 2014 3:30 pm
Robert Loewendick
expert

Robert Loewendick is a freelance outdoor writer and guidebook author with work regularly published in magazines, newspapers and websites, both in the U.S. and in Canada. Spending days and nights surrounded by the natural world is not a hobby, but instead a lifestyle for Loewendick. Whether fly-fishing a mountain stream or cruising a Great Lake for angling adventures, hiking miles of tame trails or wild ones, paddling calm lakes or running rapids, Loewendick's days outdoors regularly end at a campsite. His award-winning writing has earned him active memberships in Outdoor Writers Association of America and Outdoor Writers of Ohio. 

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