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Camping is great, but you can't spend all your time sitting around the fire. Having a great time takes some planning. From kayak fishing to treasure hunting, here are 10 ways to turn your camping trip into memories you'll never forget.
kayak fishing photo by: FreeWine
1. Go Kayaking - it's becoming one of the most popular outdoor activities in the wild. Kayaking is physical, close to the water and the ultimate in stealth. You won't make noise, disturb the wildlife (except for the fish), or pollute. As a bonus, it's a great way to catch dinner. It takes a little skill, but kayaks are great for fishing. (Just make sure you know the fishing laws in your state.
2. Photograph everything - If you do nothing else, bring a decent camera. Nature photography can be stunning, and you also get to chronicle a really good time. Most mobile phones such as the iPhone have a great camera that you can use to capture nature and other outdoor objects. Once you've got a good camera, pick up some tips on how to take a great shot...and practice.
3. Update your apps - Channel your inner Daniel Boone with useful apps. You may not know a fox from a bunny by its tracks, but MyNature Animal Tracks makes you an instant expert on the animals traipsing around your camp.
If you forgot your flashlight at home, you can also download a flashlight app, in case it gets dark before rubbing sticks together, and an ultrasonic sound app that keeps bugs at bay. Don't kid yourself, Daniel would have been all over the iPhone.
4. Look up! - There's always something going on in the night sky, and camping offers you something you don't get at home: dark. Recent night sky attractions include a spectacular blood moon, the Lyrid meteor shower, and Venus and Mars shining so bright you could find them with the naked eye.
In May, there's the Eta Aquarids meteor shower on the 5th and a comet on the 23rd. My personal favorite annual event is the spectacular Perseid meteor shower in August, but I haven't seen the Northern Lights yet. I have a feeling dancing colors in the sky might become my permanent favorite thing if I ever go that far northwest.
rope swing photo by: popofatticus
5. Make a rope swing - Bring along a thick, sturdy rope and a smooth piece of wood with a hole drilled in the middle big enough to thread the rope through. You'll need to find a sturdy limb where you can swing out to deep water, and a bank with a stable jumping-off point.
Oh, and unless you're fond of shimmying out on a limb every time you want to swing, consider a long, lightweight guide rope you can anchor to the tree and use to drag the swing back in.
6. Join a worldwide treasure hunt - Camping is an ancient tradition, but you aren't ancient. Put a new spin on an old favorite with geocaching. Basically, it's using a geolocation app to find a cache. You find the cache, sign the logbook, report your find, and leave a little memento for the next guy.
7. Cook food you catch with your own two hands - Most of us don't get that chance very often. After a successful day of kayak fishing, clean your catch and cook it over an open fire. Don't just settle for fish, though. Wild Edibles Full is an app that helps you identify edible plants and avoid poisonous ones.
Forget the canned beans. Roast some wild roots, add some fresh herbs, find some healthy greens and finish it all off with juicy berries for the best meal you'll ever eat.
marshmallow toasting skills photo by:quinn.anya
8. Make s'mores - No matter how old you get, s'mores are still irresistible.
It's pretty simple. Toast marshmallows on a pointy stick and make a layered sandwich: graham cracker, chocolate bar, hot, melty marshmallow, graham cracker. The heat of the marshmallow sticks it all together and melts the chocolate into a gooey, delicious mess. If there is one flavor of childhood, this is it. Of course, you can always add variety. Betty Crocker has a great list of s'mores suggestions or the Over the Fire cookbook.
Just bring lots of marshmallows, because more than half will wind up charred or in the fire. Toasting perfect marshmallows takes skill you probably don’t have.
9. Ride your bike - Unless you're way out in the wilderness, you'll find bike trails on camping ground everywhere. A bike rack will make it easy to transport your two-wheel ticket to exploration. You'll cover more ground than you could on foot and get to explore more of the region. If you can't pack your large mountain bike, folding bikes are an alternative. And your ticker will thank you for the extra cardio.
10. Tell a great scary story - What's a campfire without scaring the snot out of your fellow campers? There's an art to storytelling. To tell a really compelling story, you have to be the skeptic, and it has to be clandestine. Start by leaning forward, looking around, and saying, "I shouldn't be telling you this…" Set your story in the area where you're camping, and make the people in the story a lot like the people you're camping with (a group of five teenagers and two adults, or a young woman with long dark hair).
If you want to be really good, practice your timing and delivery. Storytelling requires drama. Don't overdo it. It's scarier if you leave the details to the imagination. Don't know any stories? Here's an archive of American folklore stories.
You know what they say, go big or go home. Your camping trip can be miserable and boring or action-packed and fun...and it's largely about what you choose to bring along. Be prepared for a great time and that's what you'll have.
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Want more camping tips? Here's a list of crazy camping tips you should try.