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Active Outdoors

Active Outdoors: Small car, big camp

  • On a warm summer evening at Gifford Woods State Park in Vermont, a pop-up canopy over a tent without a fly allowed full air circulation, and protected the tent from the morning dew. The tent body with big mesh windows kept mosquitoes at bay, (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

    On a warm summer evening at Gifford Woods State Park in Vermont, a pop-up canopy over a tent without a fly allowed full air circulation, and protected the tent from the morning dew. The tent body with big mesh windows kept mosquitoes at bay, (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez celebrates after hitting a game-winning RBI double during the 12th inning of their baseball game against the New York Mets, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez celebrates after hitting a game-winning RBI double during the 12th inning of their baseball game against the New York Mets, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • On a warm summer evening at Gifford Woods State Park in Vermont, a pop-up canopy over a tent without a fly allowed full air circulation, and protected the tent from the morning dew. The tent body with big mesh windows kept mosquitoes at bay, (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez celebrates after hitting a game-winning RBI double during the 12th inning of their baseball game against the New York Mets, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Dome tent with pop-up. On a warm summer evening at Gifford Woods State Park in Vermont, a pop-up canopy over a tent without a fly allowed full air circulation, and protected the tent from the morning dew. The tent body with big mesh windows kept mosquitoes at bay, (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

Small Car, Big Camp

My buddy David and I just spent two days looking over new outdoor gear for 2014. Great fun for gear geeks like us. Don’t worry, you’ll be hearing about some of the best of it very soon. All this neat stuff was on display at an industry trade show at Killington resort in Killington, Vt.

Now, Killington is on the edge of day-trip range, but gas is too expensive, even in the small, fuel-efficient cars we drive. We could have stayed in the Grand Summit Hotel where the event was held, or any of the other nice lodging nearby. But, frankly, that seemed a little rich for our blood. We scrimp on work trips to save money for the fun stuff. We could have found a cheap motel down in Rutland, but what fun would that be?

A quick internet search led us to Gifford Woods State Park (vtstateparks.com/htm/gifford.htm), one of the 38 state parks in Vermont that have campgrounds. It’s off Route 100, a half mile north of the junction with Route 4 and the Killington Access Road. Close and comfortable, with clean showers and bathrooms ... perfect for our purposes! The park has 22 standard or “prime” campsites for tents or trailers ($18-20/night), 21 lean-to shelters ($25-27/night) and four rental cabins ($48/night). All of those options are a lot cheaper than a motel room. We chose to pitch a tent in one of the “prime” campsites.

We arrived at the campsite after a full day of work, more than ready to set up, eat dinner and relax with a glass of wine as darkness gathered.

Once you have your gear dialed in, tent camping is really quick, simple and comfortable. We’ve learned to keep a complete camp kitchen in a plastic storage tub, and sleeping bags, pillows and pads in a duffel bag. Then, all we have to do is grab the appropriate tent(s), fill a cooler with food and we’re ready to roll.

We’d brought a big Vector XL four-person tent from L.L. Bean (llbean.com) that we’ve been testing this summer, plus a pop-up canopy that serves many purposes, especially if it rains. This two-shelter option is compact enough to carry even in a small car. Since this was going to be a clear, warm night, we pitched the tent body (lots of mesh for ventilation and insect protection) without the rain fly and then positioned the pop-up over the tent to keep off any dew but still allow full air circulation.

If it had been actually raining, we’d have popped up the canopy where we wanted to set up the tent and stayed dry beneath it as we pitched the tent and rain fly. Then we’d have pulled the canopy forward to shelter the tent entrance and moved the picnic table beneath it so we’d have had a dry place to cook and eat. It’s a really slick system, one I’d recommend if you are serious about car camping.

Setting up the tent, the pop-up and laying out our pads and sleeping bags took about 20 minutes. Practice helps. Then it was time to cook dinner (fresh salad, venison sautéed in red wine sauce and sweet corn picked that morning – car camping has its perks) over a two-burner Coleman propane stove. Our campsite was right on the Appalachian Trail, and as we ate we watched hikers pass by, headed for their own evening meal and camp.

Gifford Woods isn’t exactly wilderness camping. You can hear traffic on nearby Route 100. But the noise wasn’t bad and we slept just fine, awoke early, ate breakfast, showered, and headed off for another day of work.

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Bear troubles

It’s that time of year – campers have been out all spring and summer, bear populations are at their highest and they have had plenty of time to learn that campsites mean food. Not surprisingly, there have been an increasing number of bear encounters, especially near popular campsite in the White Mountain National Forest.

When bears discover campsites, they quickly grow protective of “their” food sources and will defend them against human “intruders.” Have you heard the saying “a fed bear is a dead bear?” It’s true.

Feeding of bears, intentional or unintentional, is prohibited in the White Mountain National Forest. Visitors who have not properly stored their food risk their own safety and can receive a citation. Following safe food storage practices protects both you and the bears.

Always keep a clean camp, never bury or burn food waste, and don’t leave any food (including condiments and toothpaste) out.

Keep sleeping areas, tents and sleeping bags free of food and odor (like toothpaste or deodorant), and don’t sleep in clothes you cooked in.

In the backcountry, place sleeping tents at least 100 yards away from food storage and cooking areas, hang your food bag at least 10 feet off the ground and five feet out from any tree limb that could support a bear, or better yet pack and use bear resistant containers. The WMNF loans free bear-resistant containers, but it’s wise to bring your own.

Remember, the more people who have camped in an area, the greater the risk of an encounter with a habituated bear. Most of the problems in New Hampshire, at least, will disappear soon after the start of bear hunting season on Sept. 1.

Bear resources

There’s more good bear info to be had at these web sites:

∎ wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/Somethings_Bruin.htm

∎ mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/living/living_with_bears.htm

Bear-resistant storage containers aren’t cheap, but they do protect your food from bears and other critters. More importantly, they also protect the bears. Most good camping shops will have one or more available.

∎ Backpacker’s Cache (backpackerscache.com)

∎ Bearikade (wild-ideas.net)

∎ Bear Vault (bearvault.com)

∎ Ursack (ursack.com)

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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