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A Few Must Have Treats For Camping

Island camping in Maine and the "must have" hammocks.

Here are a few unexpectedly useful pieces of cruising/camping gear. These days most of my cruising is done in my sea kayak, my Fox canoe or my 1985 VW Westfalia camper.

 

Whether I’ve pulled my kayak up above the high tide line, found an island on an inland lake or tucked my van into some remote spot in the White Mountains for the night I always have a few extra treats to make the night’s campsite just a bit more cozy.

My Crazy Creek chair serves as a doormat when the ground is wet, doubles as a duffel to haul gear from the beach to camp and for me, the long version makes a fine camp chair. If I’m not in my hammock that it is. Don’t underestimate the value of comfort when you’re out.  I always carry a light hammock and the proper straps to hang it. Even for day trips. Having a comfortable place to nap is vital for civilized outdoor travel and having a chair to sit back in while making dinner, well that’s what separates us from the other primates.

Don't underestimate the value of a comfortable camp.

One piece of kit I bought on a whim has really added a huge level of homeyness to my outings is my portable firepit. And I mean portable, really portable. Imagine one of those little folding vegetable steamers, the ones that collapse into themselves and then expand to fit into a pot. Same principle is at work here only a bit larger and a bit more robust. The fire pit measures about 7” in diameter x 3” tall when it’s folded up and it weighs next to nothing. When open it’s about 12” in diameter. Plenty big enough to hold a surprisingly warm and cheerful little fire.

My little Firepit and an evenings worth of fuel. Here's a link to the firepit.

The leave no trace guidelines lay down some pretty definite thoughts regarding fires and the rules should be respected and adhered to. If a land owner bars fires never ever build one. If the fire danger is high, same thing. Maine’s islands are fragile and burnable. The smaller islands should particularly be treasured and protected. But if it’s safe and cool, staring into an evening fire, while sipping a bit of Whiskey is a fine way to finish the day. This little fire pit is just the thing for the leave no trace ethos. To avoid any fire scar I now carry a 14” square of thin steel to place under the firepit even when setting up on beaches.

 

I’ve never spent more than 5 minutes collecting enough wood to enjoy a pleasant evening of crackling companionship. No ax needed. Small sticks 1/2” to 1” work best and can be found quickly around the perimeter of even the most popular camp sites. If the weather is damp and the wood is wet I carry cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly as a fire starter. Use a simple Ferro rod to light the cotton ball and it will burn long enough and hot enough to dry and light most wood. Of course a bit of birch bark is always helpful.

Most evenings the effort I’ve expended getting to my camp site sends me off to my tent or van pretty early, so an hour of reflection and deep thinking or more likely, staring into the flames and not thinking is about right. In the morning clean up the few ashes, fold up the fire pit and store it in a plastic bag along with the base and your fire starting kit, fluff up the grass where you built your fire and no one will ever know you were there. That’s leave no evidence camping, um I mean cruising at it’s best.

Now sit back and enjoy the evening.