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Camping has changed: And with advancements in tents and cooking, it's for the better
BY Luke Clayton, Special to Star Local News
My first camping experiences in the late 1950s and early 60s left lasting impressions.
I was raised on a poultry farm in northern Red River County in northeast Texas. Every eight weeks, when the chickens were sold, we would load up our 1950 red International pickup and head to Lost Lake, situated a few miles from Idabel, Okla. This little lake wasn't big and it was relatively shallow, but back in those days it was chock full of channel catfish weighing between 1.5-5 pounds. Our goal was to get camp set up late on a Friday afternoon in time to get the trot lines set and a mess of catfish caught for dinner.
Old Red was the nickname my family hung on the pickup.
My Dad had an innovative mind when it comes to tinkering and designing things. Old Red was adorned with all sorts of tables and overhead hoops to hang a canvas tarp and keep things (and us) dry when it rained. He even had a rack designed with poles that fastened in the top of the trucks bed and into the ground to create an overhead awning.
The truck could best be described as a modern day chuck wagon with an engine and rubber tires.
The tables were carried in the back of the truck and attached to the top of the bed with hinges once we arrived at our campground. In no time, a plywood food box, cutting board and cook stove shelves folded down and Red was transformed into our home away from home. Unless it was raining, we slept on cots underneath the canvas awning. I remember on occasion retreating to the cab of Old Red during torrential downpours.
Those were good old days but, looking back, they were also pretty darned rustic.
I can only imagine someone pulling up to a modern-day RV space at a state park in a rig like that. The campers in their rolling fifth wheels with four or five slide outs would surely think they were seeing a reincarnation of the Grapes of Wrath.
Camping and accompanying products have come a long, long way since those early days I spent with my family headquartered in the back of an old pickup truck.
The great thing about camping today is that the right equipment exists to stay dry and comfortable regardless of whether your home away from home is a tent or a 38-foot RV with all the comforts of home.
Take tent camping, for instance.
Twenty years ago most tents could be expected to leak, regardless of the amount of silicon spray applied to the roof and they all required a degree in mechanical engineering to read the instructions and set them up. I would paint the ends of the support poles different colors but then forget how simple the set up procedure was suppose to be between camping trips. I swore off tent camping back then, vowing I would never spend another miserable, wet night in a tent.
Things have changed for the better!
There are many excellent tents on the market today that are dry and easy to set up.
The past couple years, I've called my Coleman Instant Tent home for three weeks while guiding elk hunts up north of Steamboat Springs, Colo. It takes no more than 10 minutes to set the tent up, pegged down and be ready to move in.
Rain is common in the Rockies and we had our share both years.
I stayed dry and warm in my tent during some pretty rough weather and so did a couple other guys who I have converted to Instant Tent users. Our elk hunters stay in a comfortable cabin on the ranch, but the cook and guides would not trade their individual tents for a spot in the big house. There is something very comforting about snuggling down into a sleeping bag in a tent and listening to bull elk bugle up on the mountainside.
Many folks prefer to pull their home away from home behind their truck.
Recreational vehicles are available in many styles and sizes today, everything from pop-up campers that can be towed with most mid-size sedans to much larger units with several pull-outs that make them almost as large as a small apartment.
Campers have many options today and, thanks to a plethora of innovative products, camping is no longer the Spartan experience it was several decades ago. Depending on one's desires and budget, a camping trip can be a pack-in adventure into the wild using a small tent as headquarters to a couple nights spent in a state park in a 38-foot RV complete with flat screen TV and surround sound.
Preparing meals at camp has always been and will surely remain a big part of camping, but the type of camp one sets up dictates the gear used.
My Smokin Tex Electric Smoker accompanies me on many camping trips where I have electricity; I've even used it with my portable generator in camps without electricity.
These portable smokers are very useful in preparing a wide variety of meals while at camp. The neat thing about using an electric smoker is simply adding the wood pieces to the firebox, setting the thermostat and letting the smoker do the cooking while you are occupied with fun stuff like fishing, hiking or just taking in the sights.
I have my cast iron Dutch kettle and a skillet with a lid that is multi-functional. I use these cooking implements for everything from making cobbler over the campfire to baking roasts and vegetables.
What tastes better than a strong cup of rich coffee in the great outdoors?
I have a stainless steel, large capacity percolator from Bass Pro Shops that we've used on many camping trips. I'm sure the old pot is good for another decade or two, but thanks to an innovative method of brewing coffee anywhere in the outdoors that I've discovered, I'll probably be leaving the old percolator in the storage building more often.
Nature's Coffee Kettle (naturescoffeekettle.com) is a quick, simple system of brewing gourmet coffee anywhere that is revolutionizing the way we enjoy coffee in the outdoors. This system consists of a heavy plastic container which becomes the coffee pot, a screw-on cap the coffee is poured from and a very porous filter at the top of the bag containing freshly ground coffee in a variety of flavors. To make coffee, simply open the top of the bag (pot) and pour hot water over the enclosed filter. Reseal the bag and allow it to steep a couple minutes and you have some of the best tasting coffee imaginable.
Tomato soup and hot apple cider is also available. With these products, you simply add hot water.
Yes, camping has come a long, long way from those trips with my family in the late-1950s and early-60s when we used an old International pickup as headquarters.
But today, with the busy lifestyles many folks live, camping is just as much fun as ever. And thanks to all the innovative products available, it is a lot more comfortable.
Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton at: catfishradio.com. Contact Luke via the website with outdoor news from your area.
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