On Camping and Spending Time in Nature

Spending time in nature is the best way to refuel your body and your mind

The Great Outdoors became a top travel destination in 2020 for obvious reasons: endless social distance, campgrounds within driving distance, and dramatic settings for an existential crisis. Zoom ahead to summer 2022 and the world has reopened—so has camping fallen out of favor?

Turns out, instead of returning their REI equipment, many rookies are still adding camping reservations to their travel plans.

According to Campspot, a platform for reserving campsites, there are 49 percent more bookings for this summer compared to last year and a six times jump in new campers.

33 percent more people are shopping on Amazon for camping tents this year compared to 2019 and demand for other outdoor gear (lanterns, backpacks, camp stoves) has also risen by double digits, per data analytics company Pattern.

Reunion Lake RV Resort, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glamping’s also holding onto its pandemic popularity: Getaway, which rents tiny, posh cabins you may have seen on Instagram had its most guests ever in Q1 2022.

Between inflation, the stock market, supply-chain issues, and recession fears, people have a strong desire to find ways to disconnect from the stress and spend time in nature to help them reconnect with themselves and their family and friends.

Relaxing nature activities will rejuvenate your mind, from the simple to the life-changing.

The back roads of Kentucky’s Blue Grass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savor the scenery

Movies beaming with CGI (computer-generated imagery) dazzle our imaginations but the most mind-blowing spectacles are not found on a screen. When was the last time you watched the sunrise or ventured to the nearest hilltop to watch it set? Or plied the back roads?

A back road in South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The back, back roads of South Carolina, for example, will present you with a gift basket of surprises. Looming magnolia trees and Spanish moss! Tiny, rural communities populated with folks who more than likely will be happy to spend the afternoon beguiling you with the stories of their lives. Makeshift farm stands and BBQ pits that you can sniff out a mile away. Ramshackle houses and dilapidated plantations evoking chapters from another world!

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Skyline Drive is a beautiful Virginia byway that goes straight through Shenandoah National Park and the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s not exactly a well-kept secret, but if you hit the road early enough to catch a misty sunrise, you might be able to beat some of the crowds. At just over 100 miles long, it makes for a great half-day drive.

Walking a trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wander the wilderness

Walking is good for you, but not all walks are created equal. Cruising urban streets doesn’t provide the same mental boost as hiking a local trail or feeling the sandy beach between your toes. You don’t have to have a specific destination in mind, either—your goal isn’t to hike a particular number of miles but to aimlessly immerse yourself in the natural world around you. The Japanese call this “forest bathing” and it can rejuvenate a weary mind.

Enchanted Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Short, sweet, and steep are the best descriptors of the flagship trail at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Characterized (and named for) a massive pink granite dome—the same unique Texas pink granite that was used to build the State Capitol building—this park is a popular outing for those visiting Central Texas. From the top of the steep Summit Trail, you’ll see unparalleled 360-degree views of untouched terrain. For more entertainment, Fredericksburg, a charming German-Texan small town, is only a 20-minutes drive away.

Bird watching in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meditate on the music

Not the music playing in your headphones. Leave your electronics behind and listen to the melodies nature has to offer: babbling brooks, bird songs, wind whistling through the trees, and the scurrying of animals through the canopy. It’s a lot more relaxing than the honking horns and text message alerts you’re all too used to and it offers the opportunity to practice some meditative mindfulness in your tranquil surroundings.

Pack a picnic

Load a basket with your favorite healthy goodies and have lunch among the flora and fauna. A picnic is a perfect way to spend quality time with friends and family without the distractions of the modern-day world. And nature makes socializing with others easier so it’s the perfect place to build stronger relationships with those you love.

Fishing at Lynx Lake in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go fish

Fishing puts you outside, near a body of water, and it rewards patience. All of those are good things. Even if you don’t catch (and release) anything, you’ll both forge a treasured, lifelong memory. With a little luck, you reel in a perch that will grow into a marlin after multiple retellings of the story at family events.

Bird watching © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Look, up in the sky

Thousands of people who watch birds as a hobby are on to something: There’s a special thrill when you can recognize a bird by sight or by its sound. Odds are, a nearby Audubon location offers free birding walks that are open to the public. Or, turn to the internet for free resources to help you identify the birds in your area. Either way, bird watching gives you the perfect excuse to relax in nature with your head in the clouds. That’s a great way to fend off stress.

Camping in Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sleep beneath the stars

Now you’re getting serious. Why not disconnect entirely for several days or more and make nature your home? Camping lets you get further away than a simple day trip allows. Or, if roughing it isn’t your style, consider glamping where you can maintain some of the creature comforts you love, but still be away from it all.

Camping in Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the rugged Black Hills of South Dakota, Custer State Park protects 71,000 acres of terrain and a herd of some 1,300 bison who are known to stop traffic along the park’s Wildlife Loop Road from time to time. The park has nine campgrounds to choose from including the popular Sylvan Lake Campground. Many sites include electric hookups and dump stations.

If you take your phone, use it for that cool star-gazing app (or emergencies, of course) but not for scrolling social media 24/7. Forget the Fear of Missing Out and try the Joy of Missing Out instead. #JOMO!

World’s Largest Roadrunner at La Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s that giant roadrunner doing there? Read about the weird world of giant roadside attractions

Listen up: This is the only summer playlist you’ll need

Looking for a memorable road trip: Choose a location and route that aligns with your passions

Applegate River Valley, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More trip ideas: These are the best things to do this summer

And finally: Here’s what to expect at national parks this summer

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, and the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

Your RV Camping Checklist: 10 Essentials for RV Travel

What To Take RV Camping?

COVID continues to restrict many people’s travel plans but you still need to take time to unwind and relax on a summer vacation. You can still enjoy everything you love about getting away in the comfort of your RV as these vehicles provide the perfect place to socially distance and stay safe while you’re away from home.

Want to make the most of summer and enjoy a vacation this year? The following camping checklist is a starting point to help you pack your RV and start exploring the country.

Driving an RV on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why Choose RV Travel

One of the greatest benefits of staying in the US (or Canada, for Canadians) is the money you save on your vacation. Going abroad can be very costly. You have to pay for flights, accommodation, airport transfers, food, and souvenirs. However, with RV travel you save the cost of flights and airport transfers. You save on the cost of accommodations too.

Driving an RV in Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another benefit of RV camping is convenience and ease. Many countries around the world currently have travel restrictions and quarantine restrictions and these are constantly in flux. At the best of times, security checks and transfers can be quite stressful but add on restrictions and your vacation will definitely start off stressful. Whereas, RV travel is easier and can reduce stress meaning you can start enjoying your vacation from the start-go.

Business Wire found that in 2017 over 10 million US households owned an RV and the numbers have increased substantially since then. If you’re one of the many that own an RV then you’re able to pack up your rig and go on vacation whenever you want. However, before you go, make sure you have everything you’ll need during your trip with our RV camping essentials checklist.

Essentials include heavy duty sewer hose and water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV Essentials

There are certain RV camping essentials you need to take with you such as your RV paperwork (insurance, registration details, roadside assistance documents, and road maps). You also need to make sure you pack other RV essentials such as electrical or battery equipment, a tool kit, and a first aid kit

Check for essentials for the kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Kitchen Essentials

If you plan to prepare meals in your RV (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll need to ensure you have all the equipment and supplies you need. For example, you’ll require bowls, plates, cutlery, cups, pots and pans, knives, chopping boards, and matches. You’ll also need to pack products to clean these items once you’ve used them, such as sponges, detergent, and trash bags.

Check for bedroom essentials © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Bedroom Essentials

The RV checklist for the bedroom includes linen and bedsheets, duvets and blankets, pillows, and laundry essentials. You might also want to pack towels in your bedroom because RVs usually lack space in the bathroom to keep them.

4. Bathroom Essentials

Fully stock your bathroom with your bathmat and toiletries. Toiletries could include a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, deodorant, razors, and a hairbrush. And don’t forget the toilet paper and bathroom cleaning products too.

Check for essentials for the living area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Clothing Essentials

Nobody wants to go away and realize they only have one pair of underwear and socks, so make sure you pack your clothes carefully. Work out the number of days you’ll be away and decide which clothes you want to take and how frequently you’ll do laundry. For example, if you’re going away for a week, you’ll need enough clothes to last for seven days. 

Your clothing pack list should also be influenced by the location or time of year. For example, if you’re going on vacation to the coast make sure you pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and your swimsuit. If you’re heading to the mountains be prepared for all four seasons.

Plan to attend an RV rally or other event? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Entertainment Essentials

You won’t always spend all your time outside and on the go, so you’ll need to pack some entertainment. The type of entertainment depends on you and how much space you have in your RV. Some examples of entertainment essentials include movies, laptops, games, puzzles, toys, and books. 

7. Personal Essentials

Personal essentials you’ll need during your RV travels include your smartphone and charger, credit card and cash, and campground and RV park confirmations. Another personal essential might be medication; make sure you pack enough to last you the whole vacation.

Plan time for relaxation! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. First Aid Essentials

Accidents can happen which is why it’s important to be prepared and ensure your first aid kit is fully stocked. Ensure that your kit includes bandages, band-aids, antiseptic wipes, disposal plastic gloves, a thermometer, and any other medications or creams you might need. You might want to pack some insect repellent and bite and sting ointment. 

9. Grocery Essentials

A major positive about RV travel is that you are self-sufficient meaning you can be off-grid and explore the backcountry. However, if you’re planning on going off-grid and away from stores make sure you think about the grocery packing list for RV camping. Since you’ll need sufficient food in your RV to last during your vacation, pack plenty of canned goods, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and cereals.

Plan to spend some time fishing? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Camping Essentials

Whether you plan to go off-grid or not, you’ll also need camping supplies. These may include flashlights, maps, pocket knives, a compass, water filters, and ropes. If you plan to do specific camping activities such as fishing or kayaking, you should also pack these items.

Plan to spend some tome canoeing or kayaking? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack Everything You Need for an Incredible Adventure

Never forget or leave anything behind again with this RV camping checklist. Remember to pack everything you need and think about the time of year, weather, and the location where you’ll be going, so you can pack accordingly and be prepared.

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

Before You Forget: 14 Absolutely Essential Items to Pack on Your Next Road Trip

There are certain essential products that are must-haves for RVers

Packing the right items is key to the perfect road trip. In addition to necessities like your wallet, phone, clothes, and keys, you’ll be glad you brought these 14 items along for the journey.

Full hookup camping showing power cord, water and sewer hoses, and cable TV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Basic toolkit

It’s always a good idea to buy and stock a basic toolkit, just in case. The toolbox in your RV should include screw drivers, sockets, claw hammer, pliers, utility knife, tape measure, cordless drill, and adjustable and combination wrenches. Also, consider extension cords and spare fuses.

Water hose connection showing pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadside Emergency Kit

An emergency roadside assistance kit won’t break the bank but it just might save the day in the event of a breakdown or accident. Pick one up from any big-box store and bring it along for long road trips. Reflective road triangles are so effective, they are used by the Amish as electricity-free tail lights.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Aid Kit

Like a roadside emergency kit, a first aid kit is a must for road trippers. This way you’ll have essential first-aid supplies to help treat most common injuries, including cuts, scrapes, swelling, sprains, and strains. Your first aid kit should include antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, antiseptic cleansing wipes, gauze dressing pads in varied sizes, tape roll, tweezers, adhesive bandages in varied sizes, scissors, disposable vinyl gloves, and Red Cross Emergency First Aid Guide.

Use extra care with snow and ice © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bug Spray

All kinds of annoying bugs come out in the summer so make sure you’re prepared to keep them at bay and avoid itchy bites by grabbing some bug spray with DEET. 

GPS Device

Having a portable one of these helps for adventures taken outside your car, too. There have to be at least 24 satellites in a “GPS constellation” of synchronized orbits in order for your GPS device to work. That’s a lot of rocket science and delicate mathematics, so take advantage of it.

Drive with care © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paper Atlas

An atlas you can hold in your hand is the ultimate back-up plan. If the technology seems old, that’s because it is—road maps go back as far as 5th century Rome.

USB Charger

Don’t let your gadgets die on you. Modern USB connections aren’t just faster than their predecessors—they consume less power, too.

Ambassador RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vacuum

You’re enjoying the great outdoors—which means you’re bringing the great outdoors back into your RV with you. Staying at campsites means mud, grass, and insects—all of which can dirty up your home-on-wheels quickly. A small, cordless powerful vacuum is a must-have.

Fort Camping at Brae Island, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folding steps

Folding steps are one of those useful tools you might not think about, but they’re handy to have around. As extra seating, an added step to get into your RV, and standing on to reach things when making repairs or finding the back of a high cupboard, it’s a useful tool.

Heavy duty sewer hose and secure connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High-quality sewer hose

Some things you definitely don’t want to skimp on, and your sewer hose is one of them. No one wants to be dealing with a ruptured sewer hose while on vacation. Invest in a high-end hose—your peace of mind and nasal passages will thank you.

Smokiam RV Resort, Soap Lake, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folding tables

You can find a basic folding table in most stores—but you won’t find them in most campsites. They’re a great addition to your packing plans for meals, games, and hobbies. The benefit of a folding table is they take up a small amount of space and are generally water-resistant.

Cooler on sliding tray © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooler

The cooler, or portable ice chest, was invented in 1951, but things have gotten a little fancier in the 67 years since. Some modern coolers can plug into your RV’s electrical outlet and use a powered fan to draw away heat and keep things even cooler.

Cash for tolls

Keep some quarters and spare paper cash so you never have to go digging.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camera

This one is obvious, but don’t leave home without it. How else are you going to document your visit to the world’s only corn palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota?

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

My Tilley Hats Go RVing

I am an expert on Tilley hats. Well, maybe not an expert, but I sure have a lot of experience with the hats that I own!

RV travel is about seeing new places, experiencing life from a different perspective, taste testing local cuisine, making new friends, experiencing a random moment, and enjoying my good looking and highly functional Tilley hats.

Even though they are supremely endurable I’m the proud owner of four Tilley hats. I recently added another two Tilley to my arsenal for the sake of color variety or just because!

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What makes a Tilley hat so great?

Tilley hats are an excellent example of form follows function in that the shape of the hat is primarily based upon its intended purpose or function.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They have a number of features that indicate someone put a lot of thought into the design. They look great, are comfortable, and pretty much will last your entire lifetime (guaranteed).

Tilley LTM6 Airflo Camo (Source: Tilley)

Tilley hats are exceptionally well designed and handcrafted in Canada with a dash of style and flair. Tilley hats are versatile and lightweight, strong and durable, wrinkle-free and packable, and nearly indestructible, although your family dog could prove otherwise. Tilley’s are designed and engineered for outdoor adventure and are great for RV travel and camping, so you are ready for an unexpected turn on the road ahead.

Tilley Airflo showing inside label (Source: Tilley)

The label on the inside of every Tilley says a lot: “The finest in all the world. Insured against loss. Guaranteed for life. Replaced free if it ever wears out. It floats, ties on, repels rain, blocks UV rays, won’t shrink and comes with a four-page owner’s manual. Handcrafted with Canadian persnicketiness.” Tilley has a sense of humor and makes an awesome hat.

Tilley LTM2 Airflo Olive (Source: Tilley)

The label also includes washing instructions: “Machine-wash or hand-wash (cool water). Wash frequently to ensure sweat will not permanently discolor fabric. Reshape and dry (DO NOT machine dry), then re-stretch over knee.”

My two new Tilley hats are a broad brim style LTM6 Airflows in olive and in camo.

Tilley Airflo (Source: Tilley)

Tilley’s hemp fabric has a linen-like appearance and feel. The strongest natural fiber it is resistant to mold and mildew, and to salt water. It has a UPF rating of 50+, the maximum UV protection rating given.

Industrial hemp is an outstanding fiber, useful in textiles, high strength cordage, and papermaking. As a farm crop it is relatively pest-free, does not deplete the soil, and requires little fertilizer.

Tilley LTM8 Airflo Mesh (Source: Tilley)

The tough-as- nails hemp fabric makes up into a truly high performance hat. This is possible because Tilley make the hats very well, of outstanding material, enabling them to offer their lifetime guarantee of replacement if the hat wears out.

Since hemp is a natural fiber the hat tends to fade after a few years of wear—and becomes “uniquely yours as a result.”

Tilley logo band box (Source: Tilley)

The Tilley Airflo version, made from Nylamtium fabric, a strong water-and-mildew resistant nylon, provides lightweight protection from the sun while blocking UV rays and also repels rain.

The polyester mesh around the crown is a distinctive feature that helps air circulate inside the hats, keeping you cool on warm summer days.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What about my other two Tilley hats, you ask? My original Tilley, a 15+ year-old classic cotton hat is in semi-retirement, and my newest Tilley is somewhere in the bowels of our motorhome, location unknown!

There’s one other hat that I wear from time to time, and that’s my Shiner Bock baseball cap, just to remind me that it’s “five o’clock somewhere!”

Tilley Endurables, the Canadian company long recognized as the maker of high quality outdoor hats, was started in 1980 when Alex Tilley needed a good hat for sailing and couldn’t find one, and decided to make one himself. He spared no effort, sought advice from a milliner, sailmaker, and hat maker, and, as he says “got it right”.

That WAS a great Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Only afterwards, when he saw that he had an outstanding hat, did he decide to sell it through stores. The sale of the original hat, and expansion into a range of hats and travel ware, has benefited from Alex Tilley’s imagination and insistence on outstanding quality.

Worth Pondering…

“Why do you always wear a hat?”

” ‘Cause it fits my head.”

—Robert Redford, in The Horse Whisperer