"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

25 Last Minute Gift Ideas for your Camping Friends

by Jim Bessey editor

What do you get for the camper who has everything?  

Here's the truth: We NEVER have everything! Campers lose things, and wear them out, and love having extras. We're not terribly picky. We're practical, too. Here are some last-minute gifts you can grab for the camping enthusiasts in your life.

Stocking Stuffers: $1 to $15
  • Non-perishable snacks, like M&Ms or goodies in tins (my favorite)
  • A nice, basic "Swiss Army"-style multi-purpose knife. Everybody loves those!
  • Fancy tins of matches or a cool butane lighter (why not both?)
  • Mini-flashlites, or inexpensive regular flashlights (you never have enough)
  • Batteries! (see above)
Small stuff, but nice: $10 to $25
  • Nifty, fancy flashlight, batteries included
  • Grill Charms™ for the gourmet chef (the coolest!)
  • Bin Buddies®, or any kind of cool organizer-type bins for storage
  • Games of all kinds -- it rains sometimes, you know! (Consider dominoes)
  • Camp chairs. Yes, really. These wear out and we always need more.
  • Books or bookstore gift cards, if your camping friend is anything like me.
Cool gifts for close friends: $20 to $50
Splurge a little, big-budget: $50 to $150
  •  Stand-up sport-style gas grill.  (Only if they don't have one) Check available accessories, too.
  • Cool, hi-tech portable radios. ("Walkie-Talkies" -- great for keeping track of teenagers)
  • A ridiculously-rugged and cool waterproof outdoor radio (you might want to keep it for yourself!)
  • Outdoor shade and shelter: new designs from EZ-Up and others are much improved. These bag-up small enough to fit under the Christmas tree!
  • Or maybe a modern straight-sided screen house (not the old slanty-sided kind!)
  • A gift card for Dick's or Gander Mountain or some other awesome outdoor store (can't go wrong!)
See? We camping nuts aren't hard to please. Big budget or small, there are lots of good gift choices for campers. Sometimes low-tech is best. If you're unsure of the appropriateness of any of these suggestions, just ask subtly before you buy. Or save the receipt.

Please note: Amazon links are provided so you can see pictures and prices -- it's WAY too late to order anything for delivery in time for Christmas!
OK, what have I forgotten? If you have more (or better!) ideas, leave them in the Comments please. Keep in mind that ANY of these gifts would be fine with me. Just sayin'...

If you had to, could you live in your camper? Think about it...

by Jim Bessey

It's when you're safe at home that you wish you were having an adventure. When you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home. ~Thornton Wilder

Camping pool-side at Holiday Hill
What if you lost your house? Could you move into your camper as a fall-back? As we enter Year Two of The Great Recession, this isn't just an idle, round-the-campfire question. When my wife was laid-off last Christmas, we wondered how we would ever pay our $1,000+ monthly mortgage. After all, we'd been spending both of our incomes; how would we get by without her half? What if we had to move out of our home?

Were we only joking when we said, "well, we can always live in our camper"?

First, let me be clear -- this ain't no Class A Motorhome. We have a 30-year-old Shasta trailer, bought used for less than a grand and lovingly restored by all four of us. It's about 19 feet long -- counting the hitch!. Compared to our 2,000 square-foot house, it's a closet. When we're camping, it's quite comfy; but could we live in it full-time?
We do, however, have a kitchen, dining area, living room/pull-out bedroom, and a teeny tiny bathroom with a "bathtub." 

Let's talk about space.

As modern camping trailers go, ours is at the "cramped quarters" end of the spectrum. The actual floor space measures 15' by 7 1/2' for a total of just over 100 square feet. For comparison, our one-car garage is three times that size. (The trailers that FEMA supplies to disaster victims are about twice as big as ours.) We do, however, have a kitchen, dining area, living room/pull-out bedroom, and a teeny tiny bathroom with a "bathtub." We have a lot of cabinet space, considering, but only one closet. My wife would have to "adjust" to that one!

We're talking a distinct lack of amenities here.

We don't have any air-conditioning, though we do have a toasty gas furnace. We boast neither built-in radio nor flat-screen TV; we don't subscribe to Satellite TV. Our only counter space is created by covering the 4-burner stove with a Formica slab. While we do have a booth and a couch, we have no chairs inside at all. Our chairs fold up and slide into canvas bags. When we hang out, it's generally under out camper's roll-out awning, or by the campfire.
No way we could stay here in upstate NY over the winter...

And there are some serious practical considerations, too.

We can't park our rig just anywhere. We replaced our original dual-power fridge (DOA) with an electric one from Home Depot. We've never used our holding-tank water supply. We need hook-ups! That leaves out Free Parking at Wal-Mart. If we wanted to bum around, camping in our friends' or relatives' driveways, most places prohibit that, except for a weekend stay. So much for that idea.

fall evening by the campfire, at KOA
We could have a lovely summer staying at our favorite campground, for about $1,200 (seasonal rate). But that only covers about one third of the year. No way we could stay here in upstate NY over the winter, heater or not. We'd have to move South. As long as at least one of us has a job, that would make getting to work a tad inconvenient.

So what's the real answer?
We'd wake up with the sun, and go to bed earlier.

I think we could do it, for a few months -- and not in winter. We'd save a ton of money, and just have to put up with the tight quarters and lack of luxuries. As long as the weather was decent, we'd spend most of our free time outdoors. We'd have campfires all the time! (Would I get tired of them? Hope not.)

We would spend more time talking to each other, listening to the radio, and reading books. Unless, of course, we decided to spring for a dish. Most campgrounds we like have Wi-Fi, so we could stay in touch with our online friends. We'd wake up with the sun, and go to bed earlier.

I know, I know...sounds sort of idyllic, doesn't it? I'm sure we'd get on each others' nerves long about Week 2. It'd probably rain even more than it usually does. But we'd have a roof over our heads.   There's no place like home...
 Have you ever tried living in your camper? I'm sure some of you big-rig owners do it for a few months out of the year. Anybody else? Could you, if you had to?