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Leave-No-Trace Camping

For those of us who love spending time in the great outdoors, wild spaces are very special. These are places we visit to recharge, to fill our hearts with natural beauty. We hate to see them cluttered with litter, graffiti, or any reminders of the people who visited before us.

If you feel this way, then you're the perfect person to promote and practice Leave No Trace camping. Leave No Trace is a philosophy as well as a nationally-recognized outdoor skills program. Every year campers and outdoor instructors are trained in the art of leaving no trace, but you can practice it yourself without any lessons beyond this article. The mindset is simple, and if you already love to see nature in its pure, unadulterated form, then you're already a believer!

The principles of Leave No Trace are to treat the wilderness the way a courteous visitor would and leave everything just as you found it, with no evidence that you passed through. This is also called "low impact" or "no impact" camping, because your visit makes a minimal impact on the environment. You can carry out these ideals in a number of ways. Begin by packing out all your litter. Whenever you go camping, take an empty trash bag with you and put all garbage, including toilet paper, into the bag‚then take it to a dumpster at the end of the trip. Teach your kids about the garbage bag and make it a game to keep on the lookout for litter to put in the bag.

If you're going to be camping where there aren't outhouses, pack up a special toilet kit that will help with your Leave No Trace camping. Keep your toilet paper in a ziplock bag. Also, pack a brown paper sack inside another plastic bag. When you go to the bathroom, tuck your used toilet paper into the brown paper bag, then wrap it all up neatly in the plastic bag. Every member of your party can use the same system, or, if you'd rather, everyone can carry their own personal paper bag. The important thing is to not leave any toilet paper strewn across the woods.

Try not to trample vegetation. Whenever you can, stay on established trails and never cut switchbacks or make your own shortcuts (this will lead to erosion and eventual destruction of the trail). When you pitch your tent, try to find a place that's already bare of plants. If you're in a group and you have to cross a field that doesn't have a trail, spread out to minimize your impact. Wherever you go, think about what your heavy shoes or boots are doing to the plants underneath and try to keep damage to a minimum.

Leave what you find. In addition to not leaving litter behind you, it's important that you not take things away from the wilderness. Rocks, plants, seashells, and arrowheads are all part of the natural landscape. If you take things away, they won't be there for others to enjoy. Also, many animals find homes and food in abandoned shells and flower-heads, and these are things they would miss if you collected them.

Unless you're in a campground where wood is provided, avoid campfires. If you're backpacking, it's always better to use a camp stove than to burn up wood in a campfire. Fallen limbs and driftwood are important parts of the ecosystem. Animals make their homes under piles of dead wood, and decomposed logs are where baby trees often take root. Many wild areas have been ruined by too many people collecting wood for their campfires. If your campground sells or provides wood, you don't need to worry. But if you're in the backcountry, camp stoves are always best!

Have respect for wildlife. This means not intruding on a wild animal's "space" and not feeding it any human food. A good rule to follow is that if your presence is changing the animal's behavior, you're too close. Step back, use binoculars or your camera for a closer view, and enjoy watching the animal live its life.

Last but not least, be kind to your fellow campers. That means keeping noise to a minimum, keeping your group small, respecting private property, and camping away from others.

Leave No Trace camping is about being respectful and thoughtful. It's about honoring the natural world and the creatures that live in it. If you love seeing an untouched mountain stream or a pristine field of wildflowers, then you've already taken the first step. Follow these basic practices and you and your family can be models of the Leave No Trace philosophy.


This lively German festival is a fun celebration of friends, German culture, and the finer things in life. As the name suggests, Oktoberfest traditionally takes place in the month of October, though in America you can find Oktoberfests happening through out the year.

The next time you're camping near a town that's celebrating Oktoberfest, why not stop in and see what it's all about? You're guaranteed to find good food, a beer garden or beer tasting, and other events celebrating German culture. You might learn a German word or two or even spot some young people in traditional German dress.

Oktoberfest has become a German celebration, but its roots are actually in Bavaria, a particular region of Germany. Bavaria is famous for its beer, from the lagers that are popular in the U.S. to darker stouts and ales. This region also serves up delicious food, including the bratwurst and giant pretzels that are typical fare at Oktoberfests. Pile on the sauerkraut or use American condiments like ketchup, mustard, and relish, and you'll have a meal that's fit for a king.

American Oktoberfests
German-American towns all over the country hold Oktoberfest celebrations every fall. You'll also find big-city events in places like Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Newport Kentucky, Anaheim California, and Fredericksburg Texas. Las Vegas hosts its Hofbruhaus (an authentic replica of the original festival that's held in Munich every year), in late September and throughout October. This popular even has been an annual tradition since 2003. The Las Vegas celebration includes premium beer that's brewed in Bavaria, high-quality Bavarian food, and a special Bavarian warmth and coziness.

Cincinnati is so fond of Oktoberfest, they put on two of them every year! This town has a large and proud German-American population that loves toasting Bavarian culture. In September, Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati brings in about 500,000 visitors. That's followed in October by the three-day Donauschwaben Oktoberfest. Dover, New Jersey also holds two Oktoberfests, one in June and one in September.

Hold Your Own Oktoberfest
This October, if you're camping or traveling in a place that doesn't pull out all the stops for Oktoberfest, why not hold your own? Pick a weekend or a special day and throw together a Bavarian-inspired meal that features beer, German sausages, sauerkraut, and pretzels. You might even inspire your RV park to make this an annual tradition!


Are you ready to learn something new—or show the world your hidden talent? Then it’s potluck time! This great American tradition is alive and well at campgrounds and RV parks around the country. Potlucks are a great way to meet people and make new friends, and they provide their own conversational material because you can always talk about who made what dish. In fact, if you’re short of small talk at a potluck, try praising a dish you enjoy. Someone there is sure to leave with a happy smile.

Many RV parks hold regular potlucks. These events serve a dual purpose—they provide a great meal for all the attendees, and they help park guests get to know each other better. If you’re headed to a potluck, be sure to ask your host two questions: How many servings should you bring? And what type of food should you bring? Many potluck organizers have a system for dividing the dishes, so they get a roughly even number of salads, main courses, and desserts.

A quick note about potluck etiquette. It’s customary to bring all of your own serving dishes, from bowls or platters to serving spoons and forks. The host provides the rest of the equipment (dishes, flatware, napkins, cups, etc.). Be sure to pick up your dish when you leave, and if you like, you can offer to leave any leftovers with your host. Sometimes potlucks end with a leftover exchange, so be prepared to take home extra rolls, cookies, and other goodies!

Many people have supposed that the word potluck comes from the Native American term Potlatch, which describes a large social get-together with an exchange of gifts. The term is actually English and was first used in the 1500s as “pot lucke,” probably describing a feast where the guests were lucky to get whatever was in the cooking pot.

Large families and groups of friends that like to have get-togethers are pros at potlucks. This is a great way for groups that don’t see each other often to come together without any one person having to bear the stress of putting on a huge meal. Everyone brings something, and that lightens the load. Too, this is a way for everyone to get to enjoy old favorites like Aunt Sally’s crescent rolls or Uncle Jim’s Caesar salad. If you have a superb dish that you like to make, don’t keep it from the world. Be sure to sign yourself up for the potluck at your next RV park destination and share your skills with everyone. You’ll make plenty of friends, especially those who want your recipe!

A fun variation on the potluck dinner that would work well in an RV park setting is the Progressive Dinner or Safari Supper. Every RV or campsite is assigned one dish or course of the meal (hors d’oeuvres, salad, bread, main course, and so on). The diners all gather together and visit the first house for their first course, then progress on to the second and third until they reach the dessert house. It’s a festive way to enjoy a meal.

If you’re not a confident cook but would like to attend a potluck, here are a few no-fail dishes you can make and bring. And if you’re really timid in the kitchen, just ask your host if there are beverages you can bring. These are always needed and welcome at a large group get-together, and buying them doesn’t take anything more than a trip to the grocery store.

Serves 12 to 15.

1 sm. instant vanilla pudding
1 (16 oz.) can fruit cocktail
1 (16 oz.) can pineapple chunks
1 med. size container Cool Whip™
1 c. miniature marshmallows
1 c. chopped walnuts
Place pudding mix in large bowl. Add fruit cocktail and pineapple chunks (along with juice from both). Blend in Cool Whip. Add marshmallows and nuts. Chill for 3 hours.

Serves 12 to 15.

1 can (16 oz.) green beans, drained
1 can (16 oz.) waxed beans, drained
1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, drained
1 med. red or sweet white onion, sliced thin
3 tbsp. sugar or sweeten to taste
1/4 c. vinegar
Mix first three ingredients, then layer onion in. Mix sugar and vinegar together and pour over salad. Refrigerate overnight.

More Potluck Recipes

Catch The Aloha Spirit

It doesn’t matter where you are—everyone can use a dose of island culture from time to time! With its laid-back and relaxed attitude, the essence of Hawaii is worth capturing during any time of year.

The Aloha spirit is all about friendliness, and many Hawaiian customs exist to reinforce a strong sense of community. The quintessential Hawaiian party is the luau, a communal feast that’s often a potluck, with guests bringing their own specialty desserts and dishes. Wherever you are this month, why not plan a Hawaiian-themed potluck of your own? These work well in RV parks and campgrounds, where all the guests can meet in the camp picnic area. Your guests could bring pork and pineapple dishes, banana cream pies with coconut, burgers with mango toppings, and flavored drinks like mai tais and piña coladas. You might even try making poi, the historic staple of Hawaii. Made from pounded taro root, poi is traditionally eaten with your hands, using a few fingers as a spoon.

At Hawaiian potlucks, it’s considered good manners to take a plate of food home with you at the end of the evening. This not only helps your hosts clean up, it lets them feed good about spreading the party’s festivities onward. It’s also customary for guests in Hawaii to bring a small gift for their host. This gift is called “makana,” and it reflects the generous culture of the islands.

The slow pace of Hawaiian culture is known fondly as “island time.” People who live by island time aren’t precise about their schedules, and it’s common for them to run a little late all day long. By the same token, drivers on the road aren’t usually in a hurry. Even in the traffic of Oahu, drivers tend to follow the speed limit whether they’re in the fast lane or not. Things in Hawaii aren’t too spread out, so there’s no need to rush from one location to another. Think of all the stress we could prevent if mainlanders adopted this frame of mind.

This happy Hawaiian attitude flows over into the style of dress. Instead of struggling into a suit and tie—let alone high heels—people in Hawaii wear sandals and shorts, flowered Aloha shirts, and pretty print dresses. Women may wear a flower tucked behind one ear (the right ear for single women; left ear for married or attached women).

Leis are an iconic part of Hawaiian culture, but in reality they’re reserved for special occasions like weddings, graduations, birthdays, and promotions. The next time you’re celebrating, why not go Hawaiian-style with leis, a luau, and frosty fresh-fruit cocktails? You could dance the hula, eat luau-style at a long banquet, or even go for a big group canoe ride. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have surfing waves nearby or tropical palms waving overhead. The point is to capture the warm, graceful spirit of the islands and bring some of that relaxation into your own life.

Christmas is a particularly fun time to go Hawaiian. Winter is a traditional time of celebration in Hawaii, when native peoples gave thanks for the bounty of the earth. Originally, this was a four-month period called Makahiki when no one was allowed to fight or go to war. In Hawaii, a few local treats are usually served alongside traditional Christmas foods like turkey and fruitcake. You might enjoy lumpia, coconut pudding, tamales, poke, and sushi. Manapua is a popular kind of steamed roll that’s filled with chicken or pork. Some families have a complete luau for Christmas with a pig roasted in an underground pit. They’ll also eat chicken long rice, lomilomi salmon, and poi. Christmas usually begins with Santa arriving in a magic outrigger canoe and ends with singing carols such as Mele Kalikimaka.

Honoring the earth is important to Hawaiians. In Hawaii there are many taboos against taking things away from natural places. For instance, curses have been known to fall on people who take black sand from the beach or rocks from volcanic sites.

To lend an authentic touch to your Hawaiian festivities, try using a few common Hawaiian phrases. We all know that “aloha” is both hello and goodbye, but did you also know how to say thank you (mahalo) or thumbs up (shaka). You can ask for a plate of “pupus” or appetizers (as in a pupu platter), wear a puku shell necklace, or ask a band for an encore by shouting “hana hou” (do it again).

No matter where you live, it’s time to spice up your life with a little island flavor! From its tasty foods to casual dress, Hawaiian is a good way to be.

Will Camp for Fish!

There are as many different fishing styles as there are people who fish—or fish in the sea. And in every case, the type of fishing they prefer determines everything from their destination to the schedule of the day. Whether you go angling in the lake, fly fishing on the river, or deep sea fishing in the ocean, you have something in common. You’re drawn to the idea of catching the water’s bounty with a rod and reel. As any fisher known, fishing isn’t always easy, but it’s always a challenge!

Every type of fishing comes with its specialized equipment. Fly fishers have their hip waders and flies that mimic the bugs fish naturally seek out. Anglers have their line weights, special hooks, and bait. Deep sea fishers seek out their catch by consulting fishing guides and charter companies. Many people were drawn to the art of fishing as children, when they examined the contents of their father’s tackle box and went on their first fishing trip. As adults, they may be fascinated by the gadgets of the sport, the depth-finders, chargers, maps, and cords.

Most people like to be comfortable while they’re fishing, whether that means dressing appropriately or bringing the right snacks and beverages in the boat. You may like to take an ice chest with you, stocked with cold drinks and goodies. Or a thermos of coffee might be the perfect way to warm things up on a chilly morning. And you’ll certainly want to take along sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a windbreaker or several warm layers. Temperatures change quickly on the water, so you’ll want to be prepared.

And of course you’ll be prepared for the fish you’ll catch. Whether you practice catch-and-release or are hoping to take your trout home for dinner, you’ll need to be ready to handle the fish you pull in. Maybe they’ll hang outside the boat in a basket, waiting for the end of the day—or maybe they’ll swim out of your hands, back into the wild.

The popularity of fishing has never waned. In 2001, 16% of American adults spent an average of 16 days fishing. That’s 34 million anglers! Freshwater fishing is the most popular type. Anglers are busy fishing in America’s lakes and streams. Every year, more than 28 million anglers spend a total of 467 million days fishing.

Fishing has a magical, zen quality about it. Many people extol the meditative qualities of fishing and the power of being out in the early morning quiet. You may have some magical fishing memories of your own, times when you saw the fog lift right around you, or saw a group of loons swim by. You might have seen otters on the coast or been overcome by swarms of bugs on the lake. Maybe you’ve even pushed your fishing habits to the extreme. Have you ever toted your rod and tackle up a mountain trail to do some fishing in an alpine lake? Ever fished from a pier in the coast or waded directly into the surf? Maybe you’ve spent your time searching after that elusive type of fish, the salmon, rainbow trout, or tuna of your dreams. Whatever your fishing style, fishing is a part of your life that deserves to be celebrated. Why not try a new lake or river this weekend?

Glamping - Extreme Luxury Camping

A soft bed, a gourmet dinner, comfortable seating – sound like a great way to camp? Welcome to the modern world of glamping, or glamour camping. Whether you have a young family that isn’t ready for sleeping bags and campfires or you’re looking for a kinder, friendlier camping experience, glamping just might be perfect for you.

For many people, the hardships of camping are such a turnoff that their first camping trip is also their last. But have no fear -- many RV parks and campgrounds today offer more luxurious amenities. This isn’t your grandpa’s kind of camping! You can ditch the tent and dehydrated food in favor of a bright, clean cabin or cottage, one with a real bed and mattress. Enjoy a real pillow, and blankets or comforters instead of sleeping bags. Tents come in new bright colors and can be hooked up to electrical power, so you can run a reading light, appliances, and a heater or small air conditioner.

Of course, the idea of comfortable camping is nothing new to RVers. These clever folks long ago traded in their tents and thin foam pads for the comfort of a real bed, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a real dining table with cushy seating. But even RV campers can go upscale by camping at a resort campground with full amenities. You might find a hot tub, spa, and exercise room in addition to the usual swimming pool. Some parks have their own restaurant, snack bar, and cantina, and many come equipped with wide-screen TVs in the park lounge and arcade games for the kids. Many also make it easy to take an outing into the great outdoors, with rental boats and sail boards or camp-organized horseback riding trips. A few even organize wine-tasting trips or shuttles to nearby quaint towns for shopping, dining, and day hikes.

You can create your own glamping experience with just a little careful planning. There’s no reason you can’t bring the makings for a gourmet meal on your next RV trip, along with fresh herbs, sauces, real glasses, and a bottle of wine. If you’re tent camping, why not bring your pillow, a blow-up air mattress, and blankets from home? You can carry a cooler with fresh fruit, sparkling water, or gourmet chocolate bars. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be comfortable while you camp! So take a tip from the glampers and make your next camping vacation be the one you remember for the scenery, the wildlife, and the amazing hikes instead of for the uncomfortable sleeping experience.

Green is Beautiful - Greener Camping Ideas

No one appreciates the great outdoors quite like the people who like to live and play in it. Campers – whether they camp in tents, RVs, truck-campers, cabins or cottages – are the original eco-warriors. This month our nation celebrates you and the wilderness spaces you treasure with Keep America Beautiful month. And with Earth Day right around the corner on April 22, this is a prime time to focus on going green and staying green.

No one appreciates the great outdoors quite like the people who like to live and play in it. Campers – whether they camp in tents, RVs, truck-campers, cabins or cottages – are the original eco-warriors. This month our nation celebrates you and the wilderness spaces you treasure with Keep America Beautiful month. And with Earth Day right around the corner on April 22, this is a prime time to focus on going green and staying green.

The next best thing you can do is to practice Leave No Trace camping. This is as basic as it sounds – your goal is to leave the wilderness, or your campsite, exactly the way you found it, untouched by your presence. That means picking up all trash and taking it away with you or putting it in the RV park trash cans. It also means not trampling the underbrush, not creating any new trails, and not dumping food waste in the woods. Clearly the old romantic idea of carving initials into a tree’s bark has no place in the world of Leave No Trace camping! Your goal is to come and go, leaving a pristine wild area behind you. As long as you take away only photographs and memories, you’re doing a terrific job.

If you’d like to do something extra to pitch in on Earth Day, check out the activities in your local community. Many cities and towns host Earth Day fairs, where you can learn more about alternative energy, native plants, conservation, and wildlife. These fairs are a lot of fun and they’re a great place to learn new things. Are you ready to have the first solar-powered RV? Want to learn about bio fuels? An eco fair is the perfect place to do it.

You might also be able to join in hands-on Keep America Green activities like trash pick-ups, tree plantings, weeding out invasive species, or joining in a bird count. Your family could take the Earth Day challenge – see if you can be electricity-free for a full day. Unplug all your electronics and spend your time going out for hikes, playing board games, and reading by candlelight. It’s more fun than you’d expect!

This month is a perfect time for RV campers to think about ways to cut down on energy and gas use in their RVs. It isn’t just good for the planet; it’s also good for your pocketbook. You can replace your regular light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs, check the weather-stripping on your doors and windows, and plan your drives to conserve gas, running your errands all in one trip instead of heading out on individual trips to the store, gas station, and shopping mall.

Did you know you can save gas by accelerating more slowly? A few minutes of browsing on the Internet will give you more fuel efficiency tips that’ll add up to money in your pocket.

Campers know the value of nature better than anyone. This month, wear that badge with pride as you lead the charge toward making America greener than ever. The planet will be more beautiful because of it!

Beach Camping

Heading to the beach this summer? Ready for a coastal vacation? The beach is a perfect family destination. Where else can one person relax with a book while another goes fishing, another looks for sand dollars, and yet another wades in the surf? Between the sunshine and water, beaches truly have something for everyone. Whether you'll be camping at the lakeside, along the ocean, or near a rocky coast, certain things are always the same about beach camping.

To ensure an enjoyable beach vacation, you'll want to think through a day of swimming. Do you have swimsuits and sunscreen for everyone, including higher SPF sunscreen for the kids? What about water toys like snorkels and masks, flippers, boogie boards, and other floating toys? Will kids be building sand castles with pails and shovels, or will you want bird watching binoculars, containers for shells, or fishing tackle and nets?

If you'll be headed to a rocky beach or a lake that may have submerged sticks and logs, wading shoes are a great idea. These closed-toed shoes—old tennis shoes or canvas shoes work well—will protect your feet in the water. Wading shoes need to be inexpensive, so you can leave them outside without worrying

After your swimmers come out of the water, they'll need a way to rinse off, either in a public beach shower, an RV park shower, or with a shower bag that's been left to heat up on the top of your RV. Be sure to bring plenty of beach towels. Ideally, you'll have different towels for lying on the sand than the ones you use for drying off after your shower, otherwise you'll cover yourself with sand all over again. At your campsite, a doormat outside your RV or tent is a great way to remove sand at the door.

If you're camping in an established RV park or campground, you don't need to worry about the placement of your camping spot. But if you're tent, car-camping, or RV camping on your own, be sure to avoid headlands and sand dunes that can be disastrous in storms and high winds. Place your tent or RV in a sheltered spot that's away from ant hills and wetlands (that may be filled with mosquitoes).

For many people, beach camping is all about the toys you bring with you. Whether you're avid kayakers, windsurfers, canoers, boogie boarders, sailors, or jet skiers, you'll want to come prepared. Check with the chamber of commerce of the nearest town to learn about equipment rentals and their policies. Be sure to bring enough life jackets and paddles, plus any small coolers or waterproof bags that you might want to carry your lunch and gear in. Brimmed hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses are a must on the water.

Once you arrive at your beach of choice, look for signs and postings notifying you about local events or dangers. Be alert for red tide, Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, rip tides, and other hazards. Odds are that your beach is safe, but it's always best to keep your eyes open.

If you have a beach umbrella, you'll have plenty of shade from the heat of the day. If you don't, consider putting up an awning or tarp from your RV or bringing a tent that you cover with just the rain fly for a shady area that says cool on sunny days.


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