When Camping, Options are Important

Good morning!  I hope you enjoyed the Fourth of July holiday as much as we did- with friends, family, fireworks and this year, camping!

We usually don’t camp on the 3 major camping holidays- Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.   The campgrounds get so full, so fast that we would need to reserve online (extra money) or take the camper down early in the week to get a spot (more extra money).  I’m just a bit too frugal; I don’t like paying for the camper spot if I can’t be in the camper.

Can’t cook on this fire grate

The holidays also are very busy with lots of people.  We enjoy driving through the campgrounds during the holidays, checking out different sites and the different rvs with their decorations.  Some nearby campgrounds have let people double park – two campers in one spot.  Sooo many people.   It is nice seeing all the people and even the busy-ness, just not staying in it.

This year, though, was different.  The husband had a few last minute days off of work, and said he would like to camp.

Wow.  It was very last minute.  Like the 30th of June.

Thankfully, over our 28 years of camping, we have learned how much easier camping (and probably life) is when you are flexible and have options. 

With the camper always ‘almost packed’, last minute camping can be an easy option.  Besides air conditioning, it is probably the main reason we moved from a tent to a camper.  Over the years, through garage sales, hand me downs and auctions, we have acquired extras that just stay in the camper.  Since most everything is already in the camper, I can just check the clothes quickly and pack food.

Old Coleman stove still makes good coffee, mother-in-law bought it with green stamps!

Being frugal, I don’t leave the camper plugged in with the refrigerator on at home.  I do, however, keep canned goods and premade mixes (like cocoa and French Breakfast Puffs) in the camper.  The Food list is also helpful, I love lists.

The Food list is a clipboard with quick and easy food options to pack.  It also has snack ideas and ‘must bring’’ foods listed on it- like oil, butter and ketchup (a food group for the middle one).  I was glad to have a few frozen camping meals ready to take with us, like chicken kebabs and meatball mix.  I also took a few extra food items, just in case things didn’t work out, good thing too.   I thought I had everything planned out and ready, but this holiday was all about the options.

Needing options started before we even had our spot.  Earlier in the week, we had driven through our favorite state park, noticing a few campers that were only registered until the 2nd of July.  Maybe they worked Monday?  Or maybe they only registered for part of their stay?

We have part-registered before, especially when we are unsure of the weather.  Many years ago, we had camped, registered and paid for a long weekend.  Part way through our camping trip, tornadoes went through a nearby town and were also forecasted for the following night. We decided to take the travel trailer and the little ones home; unfortunately we lost our fees since they are not refundable.

Safe, but not the frugal option.

Now, if the weather looks unstable, we pay for only 1 or 2 nights.  Then, we have the option to reregister or head home.  I guess we are not the only ones who register for just part of the days.  When we went down with the camper on July 2nd, they were still camping.  Oh well, we had other options.  There was a double spot open in the main campground, but I am too frugal to pay for both spots and not brave enough to take only part of it.  What if someone takes the other side?  We weren’t the only ones not brave enough though- it stayed empty all weekend.

Had to cook bacon on griddle, not on campfire in the dutch oven

A different area of the state park has many non-electric sites.   Since 90 degree weather was forecasted, most of these were still open.  Thankfully, they were an option for us, because last fall we had purchased a new quiet generator.   I was excited to use it for just the second time!   We have never used it in the hot weather, and it worked great.  We found a camping loop all to ourselves, tucked back next to the woods where we could watch the campground activity.  It even had a nearby path with mulberry trees and gooseberries.

The generator is really going to give us more options when camping.   Lately, the campgrounds are full on Fridays and it is hard to get a spot.  Now, we can go to non-electric spots if we need to.  We didn’t run the generator the whole time.  We had the water heater and refrigerator on gas and tried to dry camp as much as possible.  It was fun, trying to not use the electricity.  Both nights, after the temperature dropped, we were able to open the windows and run the fantastic fan all night, to cool off the camper.   The battery was still 2/3s full in the morning.  The second day was hotter though and we ran the generator for most of the day.  Even though I don’t like to stay inside when camping, I really appreciated the air conditioning in the humid 90 degree weather.

I also appreciated having food options.  Since no electricity means no coffee pot, I made coffee on the old Coleman stove.  I was too impatient to wait for coffee on the fire, good thing.  Once the early morning fire was going, we put the grate down to cook bacon over the fire in a Dutch oven.

Even toast gets cooked on the griddle when there is no electricity!

It was not going to happen.  The grate was sooo bent; it would not hold a pot.  How disappointing!

The tripod over the fire would have been fine, but the husband used the griddle over the grill.  It worked great:   bacon, hash browns, eggs and toast on the griddle!  I guess no electricity also means no toaster.  It was a great breakfast, even if I didn’t get to cook over the fire.

Cooking over the fire later in the day didn’t happen either.  I could have used charcoal briquettes to cook camper meatballs in the Dutch oven, but with the heat, no one wanted a heavy meal and I was happy to not be cooking outside.  Thankfully, I had brought hamburgers as an alternative meal.  Sometimes rain, or heat, prevents me from grilling or cooking over the fire, so I have learned to also bring a few easy indoor meal options.  This trip, hamburgers were fine.  I have also brought cold sandwiches and even frozen pizza or pizza rolls as easy options.

Great camping breakfast-all from the griddle!

Sometimes, being flexible and accepting change is the best option.  I really wanted to make popcorn over the fire a few different ways for a future blog post this camping trip.  The bent fire grate and the heat prevented that.  I would not have enjoyed playing with the fire in 90 degree weather, not even to make popcorn.  I know that I’ll have plenty of other camping trips to play with fire, so I enjoyed 500 Rummy and Crazy 8’s with the family in the air conditioning instead.

Camping options are important.  They can be small ones, like having the camper ‘almost packed’ or accepting a change of plans.  They can be planned options, like food lists and extra menu choices or only registering for part of the trip.  The option can even be large ones, like having a generator to experiment with non-electric sites.  But no matter what you choose, being flexible and having options can help you enjoy your camping trips and make them easier.  I was definitely glad we were flexible and had lots of options this camping trip, it made our 4th of July a fun weekend of camping, something we don’t usually do for the holiday.

Happy Camping (or cooking toast on the griddle)!

Frugal Campasaurus

About the Author: Cathi

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