Camping: a tutorial UPDATED

Are you nervous about going camping before winter comes? Don’t worry. I’m here to help you.

If you’re anything like me, you have gone camping very few times in your life because your mom was the type of lady that thought “roughing it” was a Motel Six with grungy bedspreads and your dad didn’t have a dad. Not so much in the immaculate conception sense, but more in the he-was-an-abusive-drunk-that-my-grandma-left-when-my-dad-was-three sense.

didn’t mind the not camping thing. I’m about as handy with a hammer as a fish is handy
with a Chinese finger trap. I mention a hammer because in my mind, you
use a hammer to nail in some kind of stakes that help you prop up a tent
or some crap like that when you’re camping, but for all I know you
don’t even need a hammer when you set up a tent and I just made a fool
of myself in saying that. That’s how inexperienced I am at camping.

All of that aside, I recently camped, and I took some notes so that you, too, can camp successfully. If you follow these helpful tips I’m sure that your camping experience will be delightful and you won’t be mauled by honey badgers.

1. Find the right site

One of the first things you need to remember to do when you’re camping is to find an adequate site. It is important to find a place in a forest that isn’t inhabited by people in houses, and that doesn’t have sidewalks or very much pavement or restaurants or power lines. This type of area is called “the forest” or “the wilderness” or “a campsite” or “an especially large shoulder off the highway.”

If you think you have come across a place to camp but aren’t sure, there are a few questions you can ask yourself in order to not make the mistake of trying to camp on somebody’s personal property.  Things like “is there a mailbox in my line of vision?” or “is that barking animal a domesticated dog, or a wolf?” or “if I were to start a fire here, who would notice?” On that last one, if there are pedestrians walking around that might notice the fire, you’re probably not in a campsite. You’re probably on a street. Or in a hotel lobby. And if you start a fire, you will be arrested or cause the fiery death of all the occupants of a Hilton or private residence. So be careful.

You’re doing it wrong.

Photo attribution here

2.Make sure to figure out what you’ll sleep in.

Camping can be cruel. Just ask the Donner party. Or Moses. Or this guy.

Because of this reality, it’s important to know where to sleep when you camp. Many people camp places where you need to set up a tent or some crap like that. Like maybe you need to find shelter, or make a lean to to protect yourself from torrential rains or something. The problems with this are many, not the least of which is the fact that doing so requires physical labor. That’s right. If you choose to camp, in many cases you have to build a freaking house for yourself made of cloth or leaves and branches. And that makes little to no sense.

I recommend that you go to a camp that has a bunch of tee-pees set up like I did. It was called Ensign Ranch.

Easiest way to set up camp is to make sure someone has done it for you. 
(Thanks for the photos, Crabtrees.)

If you fail to do this, you will be forced to put up your own tent (aka wrap yourself up in your disassembled tent like a giant sleeping bag and hope that bears don’t attack you in the still of the night and eat your eyes out your face like plump, wet grapes.).

3. Food.

You’ve gotta be careful to bring the right food. Wife and I, fraught with inexperience, brought stale pretzels, one-fourth of a power bar, and an empty water bottle. So we were screwed. Fortunately, our friends the Warners brought dutch oven food which they made in pots and stuff and there were some coals or something–I don’t really understand this very well. I was getting real nervous because the pots were covered in ash and looked totally disgusting and like I was about to eat dirt, but then–and I’m actually not sure how this works and I think it might involve Voodoo–but somehow this

Can I take another helping of coal, please?

turned into a bounty that included cobbler and potatoes and chicken and it was delicious, and I’m really sorry they didn’t get any pictures of their meal, or that they didn’t get to enjoy any of it by the time they were done taking their kids to the potty because I accidentally finished it all, but we did save them some of these:

Yes, these are Mickey nuggets on a stick.

 *starts singing* “That’s what friends are for…”

(Thanks for the photos, Warners. Oh, and for your dinner. Mmmmm.)

4. Bathroom etiquette.

Here’s the hard truth: when you’re camping, you’re going to have to go #1 and possibly #2, and sometimes you have to get creative. Easiest solution is to camp at a place like Ensign Ranch where there are outhouses all over the place. But even then, things get tricky. For example “occupied” means that there is somebody already in the outhouse. Please note, when you enter the outhouse, make sure to lock it, which is what enables the “occupied” sign to be seen. Otherwise you might have an unsuspecting person barge in while your wee wee is doing wee wee, and that’s just embarrassing for everyone, but mostly for the older woman there to relieve her bladder. (Sorry!)

No outhouse? No problem! Just take a dump in the forest and clean yourself up with leaves. I’ve been there. Oh, oh, how I’ve been there…

Executive decision: I have decided not to look for a picture to supplement this section about feces and urine in a forest. You’re welcome.  

5. Have some fun!

Suggested activities:

Uh, smores?
Other things you do outside….?

Yeah, I’m drawing a blank here. Why do we camp again?

Oh yeah, it’s to become one with nature. So, nature walks are a great idea. Just remember, if a bear charges you on your jaunt, DON’T RUN. Play dead. Which won’t be very hard to do if you’ve forgotten this tip and chosen to run, because you’ll no longer have a face and you’ll be dead.

If you happen to be with a group of people who, for “fun,” decide to do a root-beer chugging contest, be on alert. When they ask you to represent your team of 10 people because you’re so masculine *curtsies*, have a ready excuse at hand. In my case, I chose to opt out because–rational as always–I was terrified I might vomit.

I discovered that the best way to handle this scenario is, instead of explaining your “reasoning”, just stand there awkwardly not participating for several loooong minutes while people wonder exactly where you fall on the autism spectrum until Tami Baumgartener shows she’s got more cajones than you ever will by volunteering to go for you.

Way to go, champ!!!

Afterwards, when the chugging is over, ask her if she threw up so you can feel vindicated in your decision. When she says “no” tell yourself that the root beer would have made your nose tingle real bad, and so it was still a really good idea to wuss out in front of 30 people. Then go cry in your tee-pee and wait for the shame to give way to sleep.

Now remember, future campers, the root beer chug is just one of the four or five many things people can do while camping. Keep your mind focused and maybe you’ll discover more!

6. Packing up

When your trip is coming to a close, it’s time to pack up. It’s important at this point to get lost in the forest on a nature walk so you don’t have to clean or do any heavy lifting.  Shockingly, Wife was the one who employed this strategy on our camping trip.

Okay, okay, That’s not exactly what happened unless when you say “get lost in the forest” you actually mean “took the girls to a huge slip and slide on the campground without you so you could pack up by yourself, mainly because you didn’t have the right shoes.”

I’m not bitter.*


Welp, there you have it! I hope you find this tutorial helpful. Now, get out there and go camping before winter comes! Otherwise you will probably die. From hypothermia. Whatever disease that is.

*Yes I am.

UPDATE: A helpful reader pointed out that I said cajones when I really meant cojones. This is not the first time something like this has occurred. (You
should read that post. It was one of my very first humor posts from a
year ago. So it has historical significance.) Aren’t you pleased to know
that I’m an official “near fluent” translator for the local school
district? Who needs to remember “a”s and “o”s!?

Also, I am replying to all the comments on this post now. Days later. But better late than never. Heh?


  1. I didn't go on the campout because I knew I'd be a single parent and it just seemed like too much work. If I had known I could have mooched off everyone else maybe I would've actually gone. Nah. Still probably not. I think I would've rather built a fire in a motel 6 with the nasty bedspread. Or, you know, just stayed home. ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. I told my husband, before we got married, that I'm totally willing to go camping, up to and including setting up the tent and setting things on fire, on two conditions: 1. We take an air mattress, and 2. None of this "live off the land" crap– we take food with us. Turns out, #2 is a dealbreaker for a lot of crazy people, including the one I'm married to. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. As a part of #4. Make sure that you know what Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac look like and don't use their leaves to wipe after you get done in the bathroom. However, explaining why you have itchy, burning privates while out camping would help with #5 I suppose.

  4. Your family sounds like mine. I grew up "camping" in a van all across the US and Canada for whole summers at a time–yes, literally from a day or so after school let out until about a week before it started back up and swore I would never drag my family around like that. Husband does NOT camp. He had his share in the AF and is done with it. The only exception might be if a cabin and inside facilities were provided. However, none of it would work for son as he won't eat any food that has grill marks on it so unless we decide to starve him I guess camping is out. So I'll just stay in our apartment and laugh at your camping experience and say to myself, "Yep, that could definitely be the Macks." LOL

  5. Dear Bro. Weed,

    You probably just bumped yourself to the top of the Bishop's Future Scoutmasters List with all these helpful tips. As the wife of an eternal Scoutmaster, I say, "Lucky you!"

    I enjoyed the laugh today.

    Sister Scoutmaster

  6. Josh, I feel like I just went camping with you! In fact, that was so descriptive that I'm going to count it as me actually going on a camping trip, which should put me in the clear for another 15 years or so.

  7. ๐Ÿ˜› "cajones" means drawers โ€“of desks , or any kind, really-, "cojones" means … what I guess you wanted to say ๐Ÿ™‚ I really enjoy your posts ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep them coming ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. "Just remember, if a bear charges you on your jaunt, DON'T RUN. Play dead."

    Now, in my many years of family-imposed camping, I've learned that your defense tactic actually depends on the TYPE of bear approaching you. You are correct about 'playing dead' when it comes to Grizzlies. However, apparently, you are supposed to band together as a group (so you appear to be one giant, non-delicious-looking entity) and make loud noises to scare off the smaller black bear varieties.

    First off, how stupid can these smaller bears be?

    And, secondly, how am I expected to determine bear classifications when it's all I can do to keep from soiling myself?

    I can just see it. "A bear!!! Okay, everyone, band together. And scream. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH. Wait, wait. He's still coming. Wrong bear. Oh, crap. Get down, get down!"

  9. Sorry I'm so late on these responses. I hope at least one person sees that I replied ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Jamie–staying home is always the best option when you're going it alone in the parenting department. For sure.

    @Su–You actually just blew my mind. There are people who would opt not to camp unless they have to procure their own sustenance off the fatta the land???

    @Zonie–So true! It would help. Also, I haven't looked those plants up, so I think I'm might get myself in trouble… yikes.

    @Jennifer–I think you might be right. Go Darwin!

    @Morgan–I wonder if my mom considers it camping when she sleeps in our guest bedroom?

    @Katie–Why thank you!

    @Wilma–No grill marks, huh? I can totally see Anaa going there. She's never noticed, but I can feel it–any day now that will be a complaint. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @becca–You should do it! But be sure to print this guide with you and take it with you! Otherwise you might get hurt or killed.

    @Suesan–that would be a very, very unwise calling to give me. Unless my ward wanted to make the news for losing a youth in the forest. ha!

    @Tamsin–So glad I could fill the quota for you!
    I'm all about service….

    @Melissa–Wow, thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate it. Didn't know that was going on.

    @anonymous–Thank you for the helpful Spanish tip. See my update ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Mac–YES. Yes it does. Your welcome. Do you need me to sign something or something?

    @ODNT–THIS is why I love comments. You probably just saved my life right there. I hand no idea there were different reactions for different species. I would totally have been the guy being eviscerated while musing on why "playing dead" didn't work. Also, I liked your scenario ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. i work at ensign ranch and its pretty awesome. my job is the slip n slide so i get to laugh at people who dont have the right shoes.

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