April 22, 2018
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Three pieces of must-have gear for comfy camping

By Pete Zimowsky,McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Raindrops hitting the canopy added to the beat of the mandolin and guitar music at a campsite recently along the Grande Ronde River in Oregon.

A glowing campfire on the edge of the area covered by the rain shelter offered heat and ambiance despite the wet weather.

A lot of folks cancel camping trips or pack up and high-tail it home from camp because of bad weather. It’s not necessary if you have a good rain shelter.

Let’s just say that there are no bad-weather camping trips, just bad preparation for camping.

The recent rainy camping trip got me to thinking about some of my key pieces of gear that make for a comfortable trip. June is one of those months in Idaho and the West where you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather in the high country.

Rain shelter

The most important gear you can have is a rain shelter of some kind. That is key to enjoying the outdoors no matter what the weather. Sitting under a rain shelter at camp during a storm and staring at the flames of a campfire is relaxing. It’s downright mesmerizing.

When we launched on the Grande Ronde River a little more than a week ago, it was stormy, but that wasn’t going to ruin our annual river trip. We were prepared with two Kelty Large Sun Shades, which we put over our cooking tables and a sitting area. With a place out of the rain to cook, sit and hang out, you don’t care about the weather.

I blogged and Facebooked recently about my Kelty Large Sun Shade being one of the best shelters for camp.

Nothing’s worse than trying to set up a tarp during a rainstorm. Running lines to trees while the tarp is flapping in the wind isn’t fun.

But the Kelty Sunshade is free-standing and goes up in a snap with three poles. You don’t have to run lines to trees or use oars as tarp poles.

It also provides shade at a hot and sunny campsite. If it’s really windy, you can stake down some lines to keep it secure. The shelter can be adjusted high for head room or lower to increase the area to be covered.

Kelty Sunshades range upward of $170. It’s a significant investment for camping, but it has paid for itself several times over for more than 10 years of camping and river running.

Roomy tent

We’re RV campers, except when we do river trips. A key to comfortable tent camping is having a tent in which you can stand up.

I’ve spend many nights on rivers in a one-man backpacking tent or a two-person tent, mainly to conserve weight on the drift boat or raft.

But after going to a larger tent with room to stand up, well, there’s no going back. It’s just too comfortable for moving around, getting dressed in the morning and just hanging out.

Larger tents with stand-up room range in price from $100 to $300.

Lightweight Dutch ovens

Another key item for our campouts is a set of lightweight anodized-aluminum Dutch ovens.

What a convenience on a camping trip. Besides baking, they can be used for a variety of cooking, from frying foods to boiling water.

We have a 10-inch Dutch, which fits inside our 12-incher.

Both fit in a case and don’t take up that much room.

Expect to pay upward of $60 for a 10-inch anodized aluminum Dutch oven and up to $100 for a 12-incher.

They are worth it for camping convenience. See my video on Dutch oven chocolate cake by going to IdahoStatesman.com.

I can go on and on about key camping equipment such as the right sleeping bags and pads and stoves and lanterns.

But I’ll stop here so we can just settle back and enjoy the fire and raindrops.

©2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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