Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Not-So Great Outdoors

Camping is where comfort goes to die.



Sleeping under the stars. The sound of a babbling brook and the smell of a campfire wafting through the pines. Sounds wonderful doesn't it?

Can't you just picture it?

Looks awesome doesn't it? I agree.

Camping has always been one of America's favorite past times. 

There are over 29,000 campsites in the United States and Canada. It's estimated over 40 million people go camping every year in the United States alone. 

Camping in fact has never been more popular. 

I have to imagine though there were times when this wasn't case and the popularity of camping waned if only just a little.

Case in point: In 1977 the movie Deliverance was released. 

You can't tell me people who saw Deliverance didn't think long and hard about going into the woods for rest and relaxation after hearing Ned Beatty squeal like a pig.

I would bet it was a good long while before Ned went camping again after he made Deliverance.

The popularity of camping rebounded though, Ned got some much therapy and once again Americans ventured out into the great outdoors. 

Then everything came to a screeching halt. 

 In 1980 the movie Friday the 13th was released and people looked at camping in a completely different way. 

And that way sort of looked like this:

Friday the 13th scared the shit out of people. I can't imagine it did a whole lot for the camping industry either.

Just as the movie Jaws made people think twice about getting into the ocean (Me) I have to think Friday the 13th made people rethink their decision to sleep in the woods.

Not sure that was the point I wanted to make, but there you have it. The message was loud and clear: Don't go into the woods!

Side note: Did you know the sales of see-through doors and shower curtains rose 90% after the movie Psycho was released in 1960? It's true. 

Thanks to movies there were now three sounds which could ruin any camping trip: the strumming of a banjo, the revving of a chainsaw motor and that creepy, whispery chi chi chi ka ka ka from Friday the 13th. 

Don't believe me? Go to a campsite at night. Make any one of those three sounds, sit back and watch how silly people can be when they get scared.

Movies have an amazing affect on the human psyche. 

Mommie Dearest turned me off of wire hangers for years.

Movies like Deliverance and Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp and Wrong Turn and The Evil Dead and Pumpkin Head and The Blair Witch Project and Hatchet and... 

Shit. I didn't realize that were that many of those types of movies.

Movies like those listed above (and many more like them) are just that. They're only movies. They're only make-believe.  

It's perfectly safe to go camping. There's nobody hiding in the woods wearing a hockey mask. There's no clan of mutant hillbillies looking to turn you into barbecue. 

Not convinced and want to improve your odds of getting out alive? 
Follow these 2 Simple Rules For Camping Safety:

**Don't wander out into the dark alone. 
Never ever walk out into the woods alone. Especially if you hear a weird sound. If you hear a weird, unfamiliar sound, don't go walking in the direction of said weird sound saying things like "Hello?" "Who's there?" "Kyle?

It's not Kyle. If it was, he would have answered. More than likely, Kyle's already in a really big stew pot.

Here's a test: Ask yourself, "Does Kyle enjoy hide-n-seek?" Especially if you've never seen Kyle play hide-n-seek!

If you've never known Kyle to break out into a spontaneous game of hide-n-seek, then it's a safe bet that's not Kyle who's making those creepy sounds in the woods. It's a guy wearing a raccoon for a face and he's there to add you to his collection.

Curiosity killed the camper. 

Second rule:

**Don't have sex in the woods. 
I don't know what it is about mutant hillbillies, but they really hate to see people having unprotected, pre-marital sex. It drives them crazy! Just ask Kevin Bacon. 

Jason Voorhees isn't real. As long as you keep telling yourself that and remember the two rules listed above, you'll be fine.

Don't get too cocky though. There are still bears out there.
Bears. Why did it have to be bears?

Yes, folks began to feel safe and camping once again became one of America's favorite pastimes. 

Camping, however, is not for the tender of foot or the faint of heart. 

Camping is not for those who like air-conditioning and who don't like bugs. Camping is not for those who like to use a toilet. Camping is not for the weak. 

You have to be tough.

You have to prepare for the absolute worst. 

You have to be prepared for all types of terrain and weather. You have to be prepared for injury and the dangers of the wild. Once you do that you can finally relax and enjoy yourself. As long as you know that going in, you'll be fine. 

I think most people have a romantic image of what camping is. 

They hear the word camping and immediately see marshmallows being dangled over campfires under star-filled skies. They close their eyes and can almost smell coffee percolating as the morning sun rises. They can actually hear the sound of trout jumping for dragonflies and..yeah...yeah...yeah...blah blah blah.

That's what we all think of when someone says 'Let's go camping.'

Everything always looks better in the brochures though. Everything

France looked better in the brochures. Yeah. I said it. 

These guys were probably never seen again after this photo was taken. 

One tent? Really guys? 
I don't buy it. You know you needed a second tent just for your hair products. 

Nobody looks this good when they're camping. If you don't look like you've rolled down a mountain side, covered in dirt and bruises, then you're not camping. If you don't smell of body odor and bug repellant, you're doing something wrong. 

The simple fact is that it is man's nature to want to control everything. 

If you want to go camping, true camping, you have to be willing to relinquish some of that control. 
Not to sound corny, but you really do need to let yourself become one with the outdoors. If you try to control Nature, Nature will chew you up and spit you out. 

Like bears do. They play with you a little and then it's claws and teeth and NOM NOM NOM.

Giving up a little control doesn't mean don't be prepared though. It's important to make that distinction.

By all means, if you're going camping, be prepared

You can't go camping without preparation. 

Be prepared to improvise, adapt and overcome! 

You have to kind of look at going camping like you're planning a military exercise. 

You have to make a list of supplies and map out your route and do all those things you need to do to ensure you come back alive.

You have to first start by knowing there are two types of camping. 

This first type of camping is the sort of camping where you feel as though you are nestled in the bosom of Mother Nature herself. There is a rugged, nakedness to this kind of camping but you welcome it because it appeals to something primitive deep within you. 

This is the kind of camping camping should be. This is facing the outdoors with only a Swiss Army knife, your wits and a can of beans to get you through your day. 

This kind of camping is sleeping bags and thick socks and brushing your teeth in a stream. This is the kind of camping in which you may get eaten by something bigger than you at any given moment but it's that adrenaline rush..that piss-your-pants-whenever-you-hear-a-branch-break fear which makes you feel alive. 

Right up to the moment you get eaten, of course. 

Bears. Bears live in the woods. They do. 

This kind of camping is man-against-nature at it's most basic, at it's most brutal.

It's during those chilly mornings and cool evenings out in the great outdoors when we feel some sort of connection to our past. We think to ourselves, 'This is what it must have been like for our forefathers.'

Well, not exactly Chumley.

You can't really compare modern day camping with life in the 1800's. It's a nice thought though, harkening back to those frontier days. I get it. I do.

Those romantic images are inspiring, but you're modern day camping experience is nothing like what your forefathers experienced. For one, more than likely you're not going to succumb to cholera or starvation. And if you do? Then you planned your camping adventure very badly. Shame shame. 

If, however, it makes you happy to create some sort of connection to your ancestors who carved out a life for themselves in the wilderness, then go right ahead. Who am I to stop you? I certainly won't judge you. 

Keep things in perspective though. You're not Jeremiah Johnson. You're not the guy Leonardo DiCaprio was playing in The Revenant

You lose your shit when the power goes out and you can't get on Facebook. You get frustrated when your double mocha latte with 2 (not 3! DAMN IT!!) squirts of vanilla, is lukewarm. 

So, prepare a little and keep it real.

This first kind of camping is the kind of camping I love because if you're going to go for it, then for God's sake, go for it!
Don't half-ass it. Do it! If you're going to rough it, then make sure it's rough. 

The second type of camping is the complete opposite of the first type.

The second type of camping involves things that unfold and blow up and plug into generators. The second type of camping isn't so much about roughing it and relying on your gut to overcome obstacles. It's more about getting an extension cord long enough which will accommodate your phone charger, alarm clock and coffee maker. 

 If' you're bringing a folding table with chairs and a bedside table to place next to your expensive air mattress that self-inflates and a mini-fridge and mini-stove and portable dishwasher (Yes. They make those) then you're not camping. You're not roughing it

If you can lie back onto your Sealy air mattress that conforms to every part of your body, as your head floats on the pillow that was molded to your cranial specifications while a battery operated fan gently blows across you as you watch Netflix on your phone, you are not camping. If your inflatable bed has speakers (SPEAKERS FOR FUCK'S SAKE!) you are not camping. 

You've just moved your house outside. 

Just having a bed means your not camping. 

You should be gathering pine needles and branches to make a bed. You should have to pick out a spot on the ground and then circle it several times to make sure it's perfect. You should look like you're making crop circles. You should look like a mother hamster getting ready to give birth. 

A sleeping bag is okay. It's allowed. No pillows though! You have to use a rolled up shirt. If you don't wake up with a stiff neck unable to turn to your right or left, you're doing it all wrong. 

Again, you're not supposed to be comfortable. You're camping.

Roughing it doesn't mean you can only microwave one dinner at a time. Roughing it means there's a hot dog on the end of a stick dangling over open flame and a bear may come out of the woods at any moment and fight you for it.  

People love their comfort, though, and they love their gadgets even more.

Camping is a big business these days. Go to places like Bass Pro's Outdoor World or Cabela's and marvel at the things they want to sell you for your next camping trip. 

Some of the items being sold are very common sense, necessary tools and articles of clothing for anyone who is going camping. Some of the stuff being sold these days is just bullshit. 

I call BULLSHIT! on them!

Do you really need a panini maker for when you go camping?

Don't even think about an answer. The answer is, and always will be, no. You don't need a fucking panini maker, portable bread toaster, coffee maker or a blender.

Yes. I said a blender

There is something being sold online called a GSI Outdoors Vortex Blender. It retails for $115. It's to blend things while you're camping. While YOU'RE CAMPING! 


Listen. If you plan to make daiquiris while you're camping, just pack it in. Don't go anywhere. Stay home and make frozen margaritas and watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. If you venture into the woods with a blender, you'll be dead in less than 7 hours. All that park rangers will find is a shoe, the top of your blender and a lime garnish.

A blender. Give me a freaking break. 

If you plan to go shopping for your next camping adventure, keep it simple

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid.

Buy only the things you're going to need, not the things you want because you think they'll make you look cool. Otherwise you're going to spend 1000's of dollars when all you really need is a short list of supplies. 

Going camping? Here's what you need:

Bring along a good knife. 

Because you just never know. 

And I mean a knife, not this ridiculous thing:

This knife retails for $510. 

I don't even know what half that shit is. SERIOUSLY! What is that? A lemon zester? Toenail clippers? 

Nobody clips their nails in the woods! NOBODY!!
Why do you think they invented hiking sandals?

Here's how Amazon describes this (cough coughknife :

~It's compact and sturdy
~It's made in Switzerland
~It has 80 essential functions packed into one tool

(A knife should have two functions: cutty cutty and stabby stubby)
This (cough cough) knife includes a digital clock, altimeter, barometer, and thermometer. 

I can tell you this right now: if I feel feverish and you come anywhere near my ass with this thing, I will punch you.

This (cough cough) knife also has several blades, a corkscrew, a can opener, tweezers, a toothpick, scissors, a fish scaler, a magnifying glass, a ballpoint pen, and an LED light


This (cough cough) knife also comes in an attractive gift box.

Gee. Just how Grizzly Adams would have wanted it. 

When it comes to camping, you just need a good, simple, sharp knife because a good, simple sharp knife can mean the difference between eating and not eating, living or dying or just cutting a rope.

Which reminds me...

You're going to need some rope or twine. Good rope, not the ribbon you had left over from Christmas. 

Paracord is good alternate to classic twine or rope. Paracord, or parachute cord, is a lightweight nylon kernmantle ropeIt's what keeps people attached to parachutes and is popular for it's military and non-military applications.

Plus it's really cool to say! "It's okay everybody. I brought the paracord."

Boom! Take that Chuck Norris!

Paracord is very popular with campers nowadays because it literally has 100's of uses.  100's!

Here are just 25. 

Sing along with me, won't you?

Why with paracord you can...

~Make a belt~Repair torn clothing with the internal strands
~Repair torn or broken equipment

~Rig a makeshift tow rope
 A single length of paracord has been tested to handle 550 lbs of weight
~Securely tie down items to the top of a vehicle or to protect them from a wind-storm
~String up a clothes line. Wet clothes are uncomfortable when you’re camping and dangerous when you’re trying to survive

~Hang a bear bag to keep your food away from critters
~Replace your shoe laces. Just burn the ends and thread them through
~Replace a broken Zipper pull
~Use it as dental floss. Pull out the internal strands and keep up your hygiene even in the woods, or to get that pesky piece of meat out from between your teeth

~Tie things to your backpack with it so you can carry more stuff hands free
~Secure an animal to a tree or post or make a leash

#13 Tie up a person 

Wow. Things got really dark fast! And we're only at #13. 
Tie up a person? Really? Well shit.

I guess if you're transporting a wanted fugitive back to Mounty headquarters and need to keep them tied up or you're just really kinky, Number 13 applies to you.

You can also...

~String up a trip wire to protect an area…rig it with bells, or cans or make a fancier trap
~Lower yourself or an object very carefully down from a height
~Rig a pulley system to lift a heavy object
~Make a ladder to get up or down
~Tie up a tarp or poncho to make an awning to keep off sun or rain
~If you’re hiking in a place where there is danger of avalanche tie yourself to your buddy so you can find each other should one of you get caught under snow

~Keep your stuff. Tie objects you're likely to drop around your wrist, ankle, or waist
~Make a pack by first making a netting then adding a draw-string
~Build a shelter using sticks or by tying up the corners of a poncho or tarp
~Rig an improvised hammock ~Make a snare out of the internal strands
~Lash logs or other items together to build a raft

There you go! 25 handy uses for paracord.

Pretty cool right? you're going to buy yourself some this weekend aren't you? I know I am! 
I'm going to build a hammock and tie up someone. I mean, I'm going to build a hammock and lower myself down from a height. Yeah. That one. 

OTHER THINGS you're going to need when you go camping:

~Duct tape 

Again, an item with literally hundreds of uses!

~A good tarp

A good tarp can...

Hang on. Let me stop for a second. 

Let's take a second to go back to look at that list. 

What have you got so far?  A knife, rope, duct tape and tarp. May I suggest from this point you obey every traffic law? May I recommend you check to see if your turn signals and brake lights are all in working order?

See where I'm going with this? A knife, a tarp and duct tape. 

Do I really need to say it?

Perhaps you want to put all these camping items in a box which is clearly marked with the words CAMPING ITEMS or ITEMS FOR CAMPING or CAMPING STUFF AND NOT KIDNAPPING/MURDER STUFF. 

Use big, block letters so it's nice and clear as to what your intent is for those suspicious items are inside. Trust me, the last thing you want is to get pulled over by some over-zealous law officer with too much time on his hands who might find it interesting that you've got the serial killer's beginner kit in your trunk. 

Here are some more items to add to your camping shopping list: 

Bring along a basic first aid kit

I say basic because unless you're a doctor or an EMT, you won't know what to do with half of the stuff in a deluxe first aid kit. 

Make sure your basic first aid kit contains band-aids and maybe some bandages. You're going to want some Bactine, calamine lotion, bug repellant, suntan lotion and maybe some tweezers. 

Everything else you'll need will be in the helicopter that comes to lift you out of the wilderness. 

Let's keep shopping, shall we?

Bring along some food. 

There are no drive-thrus in Yellowstone. At least there weren't the last time I was there. 

Hiking for hours a day is going to create a healthy appetite and sometimes twigs and pinecones don't quite satisfy a growling tummy. 

Pack food enough to last you however long you're going to be out in the wild. 

Be smart about what you're going to bring though. Bring protein bars and trail mix and things you can cook over an open flame. If what you're bringing was prepared by Marie Callender, you may want to reconsider the items in your portable pantry. 

Bring along at least 3 pairs of good, clean, dry socks. 
Dry feet are happy feet. Happy feet don't rot and fall off of you. 

Bring a flashlight.

It gets dark out in the wilderness.

Grab some toilet paper out the linen closet.
Toilet paper is a must for camping. Brand doesn't matter. People are very passionate about their toilet paper.  They're very particular about brand and texture and thickness. 

Regardless, whether you are a one-ply, two-ply or three-ply kind of a person, bring what makes your hiney happy. A happy hiney means a happy you.

Now, if you choose, you can go forgo bringing along toilet paper and go hardcore. You can use leaves to clean up after you go Number 2. The choice is totally yours and based, of course, on what leaves to use and what leaves not to use. 

You're not going to lose points because you brought along a roll or two of Charmin or Angel Soft. You will, however, be laughed out of the Official Smart Camper's Club if you use poison ivy to wipe yourself. 

Know your leaves! 

It's as simple as that.

I'm fairly certain early settlers wiped themselves with something as they trekked across the plains and through uncharted wilderness. It just wasn't 2-ply or quilted. Or maybe it was. Maybe there are strips of old quilts scattered across this great country of ours. 

"Mama. Where's my quilt? I looked all over the covered wagon but don't see it anywhere."

"We traded it, Honey. With those French trappers. For...uh...some gun powder and cornmeal."

A big point to consider is if you have a shy bladder, camping is probably not for you. If you absolutely need a toilet and exhaust fan in order to go, then camping is not for you. Honestly, if you need an exhaust fan after you use the restroom, camping is the last thing you should be doing. You need to be going to the doctor. 

Eventually, while you're camping, you're going to have to go to the restroom. Whether it's building a log cabin or peeling the bark off of a tree, Nature  is going to call. If you decide to answer the call or let it go to voicemail speaks volumes about whether camping is for you. 

Once you've worked out the bathroom issue, there are just a few other matters to worry about. Those are, in no particular order:


Lyme disease
Poisonous plants
Poisonous berries
Snake bites
Spider bites
Rock slides
Being tied up with paracord
(Just joking. I just threw that one in for laughs)
Homicidal, mutant rednecks
Being abducted by Bigfoot
Getting mauled by bears

Piece of cake. Right?

You have to know a great many things before you go camping otherwise you're going to be one of those stories park rangers share at the annual Christmas party. 

"Remember that guy who..."

Don't be the Remember The Guy Who guy.

Read a book. Do your homework. Visit a few websites. 

Just don't watch anything with Bear Grylls

Nothing against the man, but Grylls is just a little too hardcore.  

Bear Grylls is the kind of guy you want with you if your plane crashes or you're stranded on a desert island. He offers great advice and survival tips. He has tons of valuable information to share. 

Honestly, though, I would file most of his information under:



Bear Grylls' information and tips are not for the average Joe. 
His shows are for the extreme, extreme, extreme camper. Bear Grylls is for people who want to experience drinking their own urine and crawling inside a hollowed out camel to stay warm.

You know. Nut jobs. 

You're not a Navy Seal. You're not Rambo.

You're going camping. 

You won't have to drink yak's blood or reindeer (Blitzen!!) blood.

Chances are you won't have to squeeze moisture out of elephant or camel poo for drinking water. Yes. Bear Grylls has done just that. 

You probably won't have to. Seriously, though, if you find yourself drinking from a ball of poo for water, you are officially the worst camper ever. Hang it up.

The other thing about this is... YOU'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO TELL THE STORY! Ever! 

It doesn't matter what the circumstances were. It will never matter you had to drink poo water to survive. You drank poo water! That's all anybody will ever hear! As soon as you start saying the words 'I was so thirsty I took the ball of poo and-" it's over. 

You'll never be invited to Stan and Helen's Spring Get Together ever again. 

Camping should be an adventure. Camping should be fun. Camping should be your chance to connect with Nature and escape the routine of your every day life. As long as you are safe and are prepared, you will have amazing tales to share with your friends. 

If you plan poorly and go into the woods with reckless abandon, you're going to be telling stories that start end with "...and that's how I lost all my fingers."

...and that's 'Jody' with a 'y"

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