From culinary delights to gadgets, here are the ideas I field-tested on my vacation recently.
In the modern age we live in, there’s an abundance of access to information. There SO much information, in fact, that we need mechanisms to glean, sort, and condense which of it we consume. Technology, of course, helps us all with this task. There are MANY ways to do this, but my source of choice is Pinterest.
1.) Roasted Starburst over the fire. A novel idea to be sure, it warms the candy making it more malleable. However, being in your pocket all day would render that symptom just as well. Additionally, it caramelizes the outside giving it a shell much like a marshmallow which is interesting. However, consuming these without letting them cool creates a worse-than-normal burn to the mouth, as the candy sticks all to well. The verdict? DIE: they taste the same, with a little different texture.
2.) SMONES: (http://www.cometogetherkids.com/2012/05/campfire-cones.html) While I didn’t try fruit, I did take sugar cones for ice cream and filled with mini marshmallows and Reeses mini’s for the chocolate and peanut butter. I found that you should stuff them full, because (as they melt) the end product takes up less space. The verdict? FLY: these were delicious, easy, and I can only see them getting MORE delicious.
3.) Dorit-acos: (http://campingwithgus.com/2012/04/29/tacos-bag-camping-recipes-kids/) Add taco meat, cheese, sour cream, and lettuce to a crushed up bag of Spicy Nacho Doritos and you have an easy meal. In our case, we had some left-overs from the mexican restaurant, so ours had shredded beef & chicken from day-old chimichanga’s. The verdict? FLY: these were quick, easy and yes, delicious! Clean up was a snap, too!
4.) Umbrellas: Despite the occurrence of rain, they serve for shelter from the sun, and a wind-break from smoke. FLY: While I didn’t have or use any, I can’t argue with their utility.
5.) Pita Pizzas: (http://www.momsminivan.com/easy_camping_food.html) Get pita bread pockets at the store. Create an assembly line of ingredients: sauce, cheese, pepperoni, olive, mushrooms (that’s what we had). Each person can assemble their own and wrap in tin foil to be roasted over the fire, though we used the BBQ rather easily. The verdict? FLY: Delicious, custom food. With distributed effort, it’s easy, but here are some things we learned:
* it takes a while for heat to penetrate the pita – give generous, slow cook time
* have plenty of ingredients, these things hold a lot
* be very gentle with the pita, they rip easy – maybe try thick flatbread?
6.) Roaster supports: For Christmas, I got these stick supporters. They are a set of metal rods, twisted in a super-tall ‘S’ to create curves for resting your stick while roasting. When stuck in the ground, this provides a steady height to rotate from. I’ve been unable to find them in 30 seconds of Googling, but they do exist. The verdict? FLY: I loved them, even though they weren’t popular with everyone. My plan was to leave them in the ground around the fire all the time, but my fellow campers kept removing them.
7.) Apple-cakes: Slice apples, dip in pancake batter, cook ‘n’ serve. Verdict: FLY These were a big hit as-is, however, there are many things we could do to make them better. Next time, I’ll put vanilla, nutmeg, and brown sugar in the mix to give it some flavor. Also, the apples produce moisture when cooked, so the tend to separate from the batter. Cooking thoroughly helps, but it was suggested to make waffle batter instead, as it may be drier.
8.) Solar lights: This is just common sense, they’re too cheap to not use anymore. FLY I hung mine around camp on the trees. They were dubbed “the fairies.” Additionally, my brother bought a bunch and lined the path to the restroom, though these didn’t get a nickname .
9.) Scones on a Stick: For us, this is an old family tradition (FLY!!) but I’m amazed how most have never heard of it. Take biscuit dough from a can, roll between your hands to make a long snake, and spread it wide. Placing the tip over a THICK stick (1/2” is good) wind the dough downward, slightly overlapping the previous layer. Press the seams so they’ll adhere. Roast slowly until dough twists off stick easily. Place butter at mouth (and as it melts) roll so that it coats the inside thoroughly. Repeat with jelly & consume!
10.) Timelapse Camera: The original idea was to have a camera taking pictures of the campground all year long, so we could see what happens in our absence. However I turned it to a 5 minute increment to capture camp activity, which was rather neat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t placed well. This was accomplished with a webcam & Raspberry Pi for less than $100 (assuming you have a power source. If interested, contact me and I’ll point you in the right direction. However, as many have pointed out, for a short duration, a game camera is easier. Verdict: Undecided If you just want camp happenings, get a game camera. If I had remote access, or left it year-round, the Pi is the way to go. Hope to make a video some day.
11.) Kids Activities: My Mom was awesome, planning all sorts of things to entertain the children. Their favorites were: Giant bubble making, friendship bracelets, nature scavenger hunt & painting birdhouses. She also read to them and played board games, so I’m sure she made a permanent impression. FLY
12.) Propane tankless water heater: (http://www.campchef.com/triton-5l-portable-water-heater.html) After last year’s solar bag shower, and the expectation of 19 relatives, I decided an upgrade was in order. After much research, I settled on the 5L Triton made by Camp Chef. Verdict: FLY It was awesome! We have to do more engineering, though. While pressure was sufficient and fires the heater, as our tank drained, it couldn’t sustain the heater well, resulting in hot/cold swings in temperature.
13.) Solar Power: I often struggle with how developed to let the camp be. Hot showers and electricity aren’t exactly my idea of “camping.” However, these become necessities when doing an extended stay over a week, while needing to communicate with incoming family members. Having a way to charge our handheld FRS radios, drill, etc. was a definite need. Verdict: FLY Being able to communicate over the radio was essential, as we had to escort people in. As things ran dead, we could charge them. Instead of a 1966 propane lamp in my camper, I was able to run LED lights for hours on end, without worry. This ended up enabling my 8 year old son to PUT HIMSELF TO BED. How do you put a price on that?
SO, if I missed something (as most of my readers/family were on this trip) feel free to let me know.