The Basement Files

Helpful hints on ‘roughing’ it outdoors

A show of hands, please. Who complained about the near 100-degree weather on Tuesday? You? You, too? Bad, that’s a bad human.

It doesn’t matter that it was a tad bit too hot. At least there is some color outside. Drooping color, but it’s better than dirty snow.

Although I’m not confident enough to put away my winter jacket and boots just yet, it is about time to dust off the old camping gear and take part in one of Minnesota’s other long standing traditions, “goin up Nor’t ya.”

I remember, as a young lad, every Memorial Day and Labor Day, I would pack up my bags and get “shipped the heck out of the house” as my parents would say, meet up with my grandparents and venture forth in a giant RV. Sure, it wasn’t exactly “roughing it,” a weekend away from his Nintendo was difficult for any 1980s kid. Now, I haven’t been camping in a decade or so, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten all of my suburbanite-camper survival skills. And what kind of a person would I be if I didn’t share the useless jewels of wisdom with you, my two loyal fans.

Bug spray (and more)

The first thing in any “survival” pack should be bug spray. Common sense, I know, but if anyone has turned on MTV in the last couple of years, you know that common sense is in short supply these days. Besides the plethora of nasty spiders covered last week, you’ve also got to contend with mosquitoes, flies, bees and worse. Nothing ruins a good lounge in the sun with an iced tea and fine imported cigar than a mosquito bite in the butt or a bee sting in the neck. That’s a bad day, but it could be worse.

Although flies and bees can be swatted and killed with a wave of the hand, if you venture out into the “real” wilderness, it would be a good idea to pack some powerful pepper spray, just in case you run into something bigger, like a bear, cougar or pachyderm. There was a woman in Kansas last month who ran into a tiger in a bathroom so I’m not that paranoid.

Deodorant and lots of it

Everyone remembers the sunscreen, but if you are going out in the wilderness for an extended period (and don’t have a humidor full of cigars to overpower the B.O.) you are going to start developing some “funk.” The thing about “funk” is that you don’t smell it right away, and by the time you do, it’s far too late. You might not be around a shower for an extended period of time, or a body of water that isn’t full of fish, and fish bathrooms (and, if recent toxicology tests were any indication, traces of cocaine apparently), but that is no reason to not at least mask one noxious odor with another, not-as-noxious odor.

Fire-based snacks are good

Probably the most important thing you can bring on any nature getaway is plenty of snacks. And not that fake “trail mix” stuff either. I’m talking about real snacks that take a real bonfire to make. S’mores are a staple, of course. So are hot-dogs and bratwurst. But one thing you should not be without is a massive bag of pepperonis. Yes, pepperonis.

Hear me out. All you need is a paper plate (because things can get greasy, and as everyone knows, greasy means tasty,) a telescoping fork to put the sliced pepperonis on, and about two minutes of “simmer time.” Just as the grease stops dripping, and the edges are just this side of burnt, pull them back and you’ve got one of the best snack foods to enjoy on a clear night, watching the stars and completely forgetting that diet you started over the winter. Go ahead and try it. You’re welcome.

Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.