33 things I won't camp without
Plus, the truth about a red Canada frisbee that is one of my most treasured possessions.
I love my camping box. Call it a camp kit, a collection of tools and supplies needed to cook, sleep and stay happy outside.
It comes with me on every camping trip. I do the kind of camping where I drive up to or near a spot close enough to haul this box that I’ve been curating over the years.
It’s not perfect — I forgot silverware on a recent outing — but it’s as close as I’ve come in my adult camping life, which is quite some time. Everything in the box has a purpose, from a first aid kit and a propane stove to a kettle that I use every single morning to heat up water.
The most recent addition is a little comal I picked up in Playa del Carmen that nestles into a blue plastic plate that I used to serve corn dogs and carrots for the kids. A Corelle plate and a couple of bowls that my ex had in his cabinet when I met him.
The B grade can opener and the small, sturdy plastic cutting board with rubber feet which allowed me to chop many pounds of potatoes and grilled chicken over the years.
I’m telling you about the must-haves in my camp kit, but what I want and need on a camping trip isn’t want you want and need. I hope your camp kit has your personality in it, too. I have at least two decks of cards, a yarn talisman, three Koozies, instant coffee (some with coconut creamer already added) and a tiny broom for sweeping out a a tent.
I want to be buried with the red frisbee that’s the prize of my camp box. It says “Canada” with an outline of the country’s signature red maple leaf on it. I remember buying it in Calgary in June of 2006, when Ian was taking his citizenship test and I was pregnant with Julian but didn’t know it. Troy had either just died or was living his last days in Florida. (This was a memorable, sad trip, y’all. I found out he died on one of our last days there and couldn’t get home in time for the funeral.)
The frisbee itself is worthless. A cheap plastic disc that really isn’t much good for throwing.
But boy can it start a fire.
I am really good at getting a fire started from just about anything, but my secret is this frisbee, which I use to fan the flames. It’s exactly the right size for my hand, and I can use it to add precisely the right amount of oxygen to nascent coals.
It can coax a fire’s first flames and it can whip up a hot fury once things get going.
The year I got the Canada frisbee is the year I started building my own camping box. I had just moved to Austin, starting my life outside college. We didn’t camp a ton in college because we didn’t have the gear. You don’t need much, but you need more than we had: a tent, sleeping bags, a propane burner.
Over that first year of parenthood, I started buying what I needed so we could go camping with Julian.
That means my camping kit has taken 14 years to get just right. (And also that I’ve had the same blue and orange tent for that long, too.)
Some of those years, I only went camping maybe once. Other years, like this past one, I’m camping every couple of months.
And that camp kit has been coming in handy.
I keep a flask of whiskey in there, sunscreen, paper towels and toilet paper. I have two small boxes — kits within a kit — that hold pocket knives, bungee cords, floss, sugar for coffee and flashlights. I keep a headlamp in my clothes bag and ear plugs in the tent.
Aluminum foil and extra plastic bags are handy for storing leftovers from one meal to the next. For cooking, I use a non-stick medium pot that is the exact same size as the stove, so the stove nestles into the pot when packed. (If I know I’m going to be doing a heavy amount of cooking for a group of people, I will bring a cast iron skillet, too.)
And lastly, I always have an extra can of propane. Those things last forever, but you don’t want to be left without.
May the camping goddesses bless that plastic box that somehow holds all of this together. And may she lead you to your own camping adventures, where you’ll pull out just what you need from your own magical camping box.
After the jump….some very big news that’s been on my mind and where this month’s donation is going.
What else is on my mind.
This is the week I’m making it official: I’m leaving the Statesman after 15 years, 13 as the food writer and home cooking columnist. June 1 is my last day. I have lots to say about this and have been in deep grief around it for weeks, processing what has become a large part of my life.
But when new adventures call…
Starting The Feminist Kitchen Substack has been such a stepping stone this spring as I’ve worked toward this decision. I’ve been making this decision for many years now, and after deciding to stay year after year, it’s time for someone else to make the beat their own.
I get to write this next chapter of my life with not just a different pen but on a different canvas. Tarot. Podcasts. Consulting. Freelance writing. You’ll get to hear about it first with the paid Feminist Kitchen subscription. Look for more on this news soon!
Thanks for your support, as always.
P.S. One last thing: When I started Substack, I wanted to make sure that part of proceeds went to causes that address racism and other forms of injustice and oppression. For this spring’s subscription sales, I am making a donation to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. Camping isn’t a fun excursion for many folks, and ECHO is working to help ease the harm caused by the recent reinstated camping ban.