When Nature Calls
Camping is one of the easiest escapes into nature. The more nights this summer you can spend staring at a campfire and sleeping under a canopy of stars, the better, even if you stay close to home.
Oklahoma’s Green Country is perfect for summer camping, with plenty of beautiful state parks, lots of shade, and rivers, lakes, forests and hills to explore. Whether you take a 45-foot RV with air conditioning and satellite TV or only what you can carry on your back, camping offers something for every outdoors lover.
At our state parks, you can rent cabins or rooms in the lodge, stay at RV campsites, or even camp at the end of a long hiking trail. Or you can pitch a tent in your backyard and camp closer to home. Camping is a great opportunity for family activities, but don’t forget the opportunity to bond with friends or enjoy a romantic getaway, getting closer to each other and to nature.
But when you are not prepared and you don’t know what you need to know, you will not have fun and could be putting yourself and others in danger.
Veteran camping enthusiasts are a valuable source of advice for new campers, and even experienced campers can learn something new from each other. Campers John Burton, Lindsey Ison, Omni Delano and Brent Iwanski offer some tips and ideas for great summer camping.
Bring your pet
Oklahoma’s state parks are pet friendly, and you can bring your furry family members with you when you rent a cabin or camping site. Iwanski is a particular fan of camping with his pets. “Sharing that time with a beloved family pet can be an awesome experience,” he says. Be aware of the risk of ticks for your pet, and make sure their flea and tick prevention is current. Also, as the summer days get hotter, make sure your pet has access to plenty of clean, fresh water while in the outdoors.
Get a hammock
Iwanski is a big fan of hammocks for camping. “Depending on your budget, you can get a cheap relaxation hammock or even an actual tent hammock, which are great for older campers or people who don’t want to be on the ground. They are great for back support, and the tent hammocks are a lot easier to set up and take down than a traditional tent.” Bonus: most hammocks are lightweight and easy to carry, making them a great choice for those trips that include some hiking.
“Have you heard of “GORP?” asks Burton. It stands for “good old raisins and peanuts.” Easily transportable and energy dense, GORP is a staple for campers who plan to hike. Burton adds M&M’s to up the energy and calls the result GORPM.
Ison prepares for camping by pre-making her meals in foil, so they can be cooked on a camp grill or even placed directly on the hot coals. “Foil packet dinners are easy to clean up and fun to make,” she says. Remember that hard vegetables like carrots or potatoes may take longer to cook than the other ingredients, so try adding canned or frozen vegetables to your packets instead. You can find all kinds of recipes for camping online.
Pack the toilet paper
“Always bring your own toilet paper,” says Delano. Pack it in a zip lock bag (it still works just fine even if it gets a little crushed in your backpack). There isn’t usually running water to clean up with, so bring some baby wipes for washing hands and bodies. And having hand sanitizer available is also a great idea.
Know the rules, know the area
Research the area and make sure you know the layout of the camp or park. Make sure you know the rules about campfires, hours, pets, vehicles, and bathrooms.
Be a weather watcher
Make sure you know what kind of weather to expect, and plan for it. Then be ready to change your plans, because this is Oklahoma weather we’re talking about. Have a plan for the worst. And if it’s just a little rain, “fishing is better after the rain anyway,” says Delano.
Keep air circulating
Dead air has a way of compounding the effects of heat. To minimize this effect, bring along a battery powered fan. The comfort factor is increased substantially with one in your campground dwelling. Also remove your tent’s rain fly at night to allow the night breeze to make its way through your tent.
Camping newbies should start small
“If you’re new to camping, make your trip one that is just a weekender,” says Burton. “That way, if equipment — or the body — needs a tuneup, your learning experience will still be enjoyable.” In other words, don’t overexert yourself. Fortunately, Green Country offers plenty of camping opportunities close to home so you can easily try out an overnight before committing to something more involved.
Never underestimate the bugs
Biting, buzzing bugs can ruin an otherwise relaxing camping trip. “I use citronella sticks,” says Iwanski. “They can be hard to find but they are wonderful for keeping many types of insects away. They are easy to stick in the ground to make a perimeter and they burn slow so they last a long time and smell nice to boot.”
Clean up after yourself
Be sure you have what you need to leave your campsite cleaner than you found it, and that means trash bags. “Hang your trash bags in trees to minimize scavenger animals in your camp,” suggests Delano. Before you leave, take a look around to make sure you haven’t left wrappers, cans, bottles, cigarette butts, or other trash behind. Not only does it leave a mess for the next camper, it’s dangerous for the wildlife.
Make a list
Depending on the length of your stay, you’ll want to make sure you have a light source, something like an ice chest for storing food, a first-aid kit, extra water, rain gear, compass, sunscreen and bug spray. Consider bringing a jacket in case it’s cooler than you expect, and a good sun hat in case it’s brighter than you expect.
Keep other campers in mind. Don’t play your music so loud that it keeps others awake. Don’t be so noisy that you’re disrupting other people’s evenings. Don’t carve your name into things or paint your initials. Never feed the wildlife. It makes them more likely to approach other campers, which is dangerous for both wildlife and campers.
Make sure someone knows where you are and when you expect to be back. Consider a GPS and have a cellphone that can get a signal or a radio in case you get lost. Wear appropriate clothing for the terrain, especially good shoes or boots.
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