Sunday, March 8, 2020

Campin’ Out Cowboy Style

By Christopher Robinson

So you’ve been riding the range most of the day… or perhaps you’ve been biking or hiking some endless trails in a small section of idyllic wilderness where the amenities of civilization are suitably out of reach. Nature’s pristine beauty is yours to behold, just as it was for the cowpokes and drifters on the ol’ trail in western days of old. What better way to become one with it all, watching constellations or even witnessing a meteor shower.

As visually and physically exhilarating as it is, you’ll almost forget that you’re essentially roughing it, and that’s the essence of your incredible outdoor adventure. You won’t compromise that by cheating with any of the ubiquitous modern comforts. You’re camping for the night and, by golly, you’re gonna do it like a real cowboy.

Camping ‘light’ will also save you a heap of time and energy. It may seem simple and even obvious in theory but there will be a few considerations to take into account. Safety and responsibility come first, so enjoy camping as you please but do so with proper observance of your particular surroundings in order to stay safe, comfortable and sound. Staying in control of these situations at all times will ensure a rewarding and exceptional camping outing, one you’ll gain newfound appreciation for, with continued confidence, awareness and experience.

Though bedding down and embracing the elements by the light of the silvery moon suggests an essence of simplicity, there are several details to think through (depending also on your own degree of camping experience). You’ll want to research your preparation thoroughly in relation to the extent and duration of your trip.

As mentioned, safety is paramount. If you’re a beginner camper it will be advisable to first do so with an experienced friend. There are numerous tips and rules that apply to any number of different activities you might be engaging in. For economical purposes, however, we’ll only cover some basics to get you primed for some tent-free camping simplicity.

Anticipate the Weather and Be Prepared

Be aware of weather forecasts ahead of time and keep checking them(bring rain gear, just in case). If rain is expected, bring a ground cloth or a tarp with stakes and plan to camp accordingly if there is any chance of lightning. Don’t camp under a tree if thunderstorms occur. Take cover within woodlands (always camp near trees when possible). If you experience lightning, stay in the “cone”; within the protection of a nearby tree but not so close that electricity can bounce off onto you.

Make sure you come prepared. Be equipped with whatever tools, gear and items you require (again, depending on exactly what type of camping you’ll be doing). Some of the essentials include:

  • Appropriate clothes (long johns, cap if cold etc.)
  • Knife
  • Matches
  • Compass
  • GPS or smart phone
The above items should remain on your person so you can easily start a bonfire in the event of becoming lost. Other items you will need include:
  • Flashlight
  • Utensils, skillet, pots and cup
  • Canteen or water jugs
  • Foodstuffs
  • First aid kit
  • Bedroll(sleeping bag)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Containers or Zip-loc bags

Selecting a Camping Spot and Watch Out for Bears

As previously stated, try to camp near trees when possible. Avoid camping near water, especially standing water. Select an elevated spot as opposed to a recessed one that can flood. Choose soft ground that is free of anthills. If using a ground cloth, curling the ends upwards can deter crawling insects.

Sleeping pads are essential for comfort, support and warmth. Take precautions to ensure it is dry and be sure to air it out after use. Also, check your sleeping bag’s temperature rating to ensure it is ‘four season,’ depending on location, time of year and outside temperatures. Shake it out before and after use.

Know whether you’ll be hiking and camping in bear country. If black bears may roam your camping site, understand the precautions one takes to avoid bear encounters and how to remain safe in the event of one. Remember, bear mace or pepper spray is more effective than a gun. Understand the do’s and don’ts of black bear encounters, and by all means, DO NOT cowboy camp in grizzly bear country.

Fetching Water

Should you run out of the water you brought along, be sure to collect it from sources that are cold and deep, avoiding water from shores, warm water, shallow water or water upstream from camps or trails. Bring it to a boil for five minutes and wait 1-2 hours to cool if needed for drinking. Inconvenient as it may be, it’s necessary for avoiding potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses.

Building Your Fire

Always use existing fire pits when available. If creating a new fire pit or ring, be aware of your camp area’s fire regulations and whether a fire permit is required. Clear all flammable debris 6 feet away and gather some stones if available for a small stone circle as a wind barrier. Search for dead-fall instead of cutting any trees (dead or alive) and dried driftwood if available.

Gather and cut various thicknesses of wood to use when dry. Dry twigs are good fire starters. Cut some thin shavings as well as thicker ones the width of your thumb and place them in piles. Arrange three thin sticks horizontally across and over top two log supports angling vertically. Space the thin sticks about an inch apart from each other. Stack thin shavings atop the thin sticks to a height of about an inch. Then add two thick twigs (thinner than your log supports) on the horizontal sides. Pile finely split kindling horizontally across the top.

The fire can be lit from underneath the center. From then on, fine shavings can be added one at a time. You can use a long branch to hoist pots over your fire. When you're done,you must be certain the fire is out. Allow the wood to burn into ash, then drench with water until all the embers are cold, not just the ones that are red. Keep pouring until there is no more hissing sound. Continue adding water, pouring or sprinkling until it is completely cool. When all is no longer hot to the touch, it can be left alone.

Rustle Up Your Grub

By now you’ve probably worked up an appetite. A cowboy would most likely be riding in the hot sun most of the day with his vittles stashed in his saddlebags. In keeping with this, we’ll stick to non-perishables that will provide for some humble but enjoyable eating. A little coffee, oatmeal, pancakes and Saddle Tramp Stew will suffice for a real cowboy camper, so bring along the following items:
  • Chicken broth (powder or cubed)
  • Dehydrated vegetable packet
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Container of white rice
  • Pancake mix (complete)
  • Instant coffee
  • Small sealed syrup packet or container

Rustlin' Up Cowboy Pancakes and Saddle Tramp Stew

Nothing special here; simply add ¼ cup water to your pancake mix and stir. Pour four small circles on fired skillet. Keep moving them as you probably won’t have the skillet greased. Flip when the undersides are slightly browned and add syrup (also good with your oatmeal).

Now, for the stew! Bring a small pot, add some water and bring it to a boil. Add a small cup (1/8) of rice, then cook. Be sure to cover for 10 minutes. Boil a separate pot of 1 cup of water then add dehydrated vegetables. When rice is ready, spoon drained rice into pot and add 1 teaspoon of broth powder (or 1 cube). Cook until vegetables are soft.

Remember, eating hot food before sleeping is a good way to keep warm.

Get Some Shut-Eye

Before bedding down, clean all cookware and store any leftovers in airtight containers. Lock them up or hang from a branch 10-12 feet high. Don’t tempt wild animals with food. For maximum warmth, change completely into long johns and such to avoid dampness in the clothes you wore throughout the day. After all that, you should sleep well and wake up with a beautiful sunrise. When you’re ready to break camp, take all trash with you and leave your surroundings in the same state you found them.

Alright, pardner, go ahead and channel your inner cowboy/cowgirl. Just remember to plan accordingly, be prepared and take all appropriate considerations. Once you’re back in town with the city folk, feel free to message us and let us know how you did. You’re bound to have a story or two to share. Happy camping and be sure to save me a flapjack.

About the Author

Christopher Robinson is a writer, filmmaker and musician in New Jersey who has contributed to several magazines and websites.

Robinson also worked as a cameraman, videographer, cable access TV host, teacher and producer. He scripted and produced commercial videos as well as cable television programs for local consumption.

For more info about Christopher, click here.

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