Travels with Charley

The cool camping blog. Trying to find gear, supplies, adventure and activities for the 21st century camper.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gear Roundup

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gear - First Aid kits

Here's a quick post on first aid kits. Adventure Medical Kits has a bunch of different kits for different situations. Kevin at Cool Tools has a review of their first aid kits. I like the look of their Ultralight series because they come in watertight pouches and I have been looking for something for kayaking. One interesting feature that really caught my eye: many of the kits come with a length of Duct Tape! They also carry repair kits for different purposes; general, tenting and backpacking. We have touched on that subject before and I'd rather make my own kit based upon what I'm doing, but their kits have a interesting selection of buckles and straps.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Destinations - In Praise of Rustic Campgrounds

I'm not much of a backpacker.  I suspect that I will be forced into backpack camping someday, but until then, the closest I have come is rustic camping at Michigan State Forest Campgrounds .  We just tent camped at a horse camp in the Sleeping Bear area of Michigan, after finding the National Park rustic camp full.  What was amazing was, that in about 50 sites, there were FOUR campers.  The state charges $3 per person.  So for 2 people that amounts to $6 a night, for a natural wooded setting.  Other parks have a flat $10 fee.  If we had explored the whole campground at first we could have parked right next to a lake, all by ourselves, as well.

These camps are similiar to the Corp of Engineer camps.   They are completely undeveloped, no utilities, no offices, no pavement with a hand operated water pump and usually vault toilets.  Campsites will be cleared of brush and woods, but not mowed and often not marked.  There will be roads but in some cases may not be suitable for all campers and RVs.  They are often associated with a river, lake or trail of some form.  Here's one on Lake Huron in Michigan:

Ossineke State Forest Campground:   42 sites for tent and small trailer use spaced out generously along Lake Huron. Facilities include a day use area with tables and grill, sandy beaches , and a barrier-free boardwalk out to Lake Huron.

And for $10 a night!  No reservations and I bet you could drive up there Friday night and get a prime spot.  I have also visited the mouth of the Big Two-hearted River SF Campground and it is a knockout, 30 sites right where the river meets Lake Superior and there were about 8 campsites taken.  The beauty of some of these camps cannot be overstated.

National Forests also offer rustic campsites too.  For instance, there is one on the northern shore of Lake Michigan, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, that is right on the water.  Click over to the national map and drill down to the location you want to visit.

If you camp with an RV, or have just never gotten off of the beaten path, I suggest you give public rustic campgrounds a try.  They are often times undiscovered gems and you may just find a secret spot all to yourself.

Other links to find public camps include:
US Army Corps of Engineers

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Late Summer Camping Update

Haven't been posting much this summer because we have been on the go the whole time, boating and camping. The summer started on Memorial day weekend with a failed camping attempt. As I pulled the camper up the drive my wife told me one of the tail lights was out. It was not a burnt bulb, and despite the advice of a friend (Lou!) I didn't find the fault for three days. Heed my (and Lou's) advice: when you have a trailer electrical problem upon hookup, always check the trailer-to-tow vehicle plug first. The ground wire had pulled loose and was shorting out the left tail light. Open it and the receptacle first and look for loose wires.

Our first successful trip involved a trip to the Saginaw Bay shoreline for a few days where we relaxed and hiked. Beautiful setting and beautiful weather. It was then off to Traverse city for a couple of days of fun where we learned that we really really like kayaks. Crystal River Outfitters is a great place to rent kayaks - recommended!

July was supposed to be a month without camping, until a heat wave hit. We took off for the weekend on a moment's notice and it was the most fun short trip we've had. We found a nice little park in Michigan's thumb, right on Lake Huron. We went kayaking again around Pt Aux Barque and discovered Turnip rock! That night, while sitting around the campfire, we looked out over the lake and saw the lights from the boats in the Port Huron to Mackinac race.

Next up was the Airstream Rally in Grass Lake Michigan. This was a rally of people that have mostly met online at various forums and just plain friends. Campers from 1963 up through the 2007 model year were there and we had a great time touring each other's campers, sitting around the communal campfire and at the potluck dinner. Applecreek campground was a very nice setting for this and if you are staying in the Irish Hills area of Michigan, I suggest you try them out. BTW, we bought kayaks on this trip.

I go tent camping with some buddies this weekend to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and we're off in the Airstream towards the end of the month. I hope to have my thoughts on Duck tape flat packs, Camelbacks and making coffee on a Coleman stove when I get back.