I overheard a conversation at a local convenience store the other day that piqued my interest.
Two 40-something females were conversing about their camping trip over the fourth of July weekend. They both agreed the fishing was good, the mosquitoes were bad, and the children were well behaved.
Still, the trip was also noteworthy for a few unpleasant surprises, namely forgotten camping gear and defective equipment.
"I only go camping once a summer, and after I'm home, I pack all my stuff into plastic storage bins and keep it in my garage until the following year," said one of the ladies. "I don't know what happened. I should have packed much smarter."
Make A Gear Checklist
Such stories aren't uncommon; they happen to all of us at least once in our lives -- trust me on that. Before I go on a family camping trip, I grab a notebook and write out a packing list, complete with boxes for check marks. It sounds a little corny, but I've found it works so well that I've turned it into something of a ritual.
As I start to assemble my gear, first making sure everything works properly, I pack the item and check the appropriate box in my notebook. That way I know I won't forget anything at home.
Tent -- check.
Stakes -- check.
Sleeping bag -- check.
Lantern -- check.
Flashlight -- check.
And so on.
When you are going on a camping trip far away from home, forgotten items can mean more than an inconvenience; forgotten items can lead to a nightmare. Here are a few camping and fishing items that I absolutely won't leave home without:
If you have designs on eating a fresh fish dinner, a quality set of fillet knives is mandatory. A butter knife simply won't cut it (no pun intended). For my money, Gerber makes the best fillet knives on the market today. Inexpensive and always dependable, they come in multiple sizes and have special "Gator Grip" handles that make filleting fish in wet weather a snap. All of Gerber's fillet knives come with a hard-molded sheath and a ceramic sharpener slot at the tip. That's definitely a plus when you're cleaning a mess of bluegills. Gerber also has other products that you'll find helpful in any camping setting, everything from axes, saws and multi-pliers, to shears, knife sharpeners and more. For more information, check www.gerber.com.
These quality plastic bags are lifesavers -- and in more ways than one. If I catch enough fish on a camping trip to take home, I immediately put the fillets in Ziploc freezer bags and put them on ice. I also store other food I want to keep dry in them. When I'm wilderness camping, I always assume I going to run into inclement weather, so I pack my extra socks, underwear, T-shirts and other garments in Ziploc Big Bags. Trust me, they'll stay nice and dry.
Family camping trips are the stuff of memories, so why not preserve them by snapping off a few rolls of film? I never leave home without my trusty Nikon 35mm camera. One never knows when you're going to catch a monster pike or walleye. For information, check www.nikon.com.
Nothing can spoil a camping trip faster than getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, or sandflies. That's why I store cans of OFF! Deep Woods everywhere -- in my Chevy truck, in my Plano tackle box, in my duffel bag. OFF! Deep Woods has 25 percent DEET, which is good for long days in the outdoors. Generally speaking, the higher the percentage of DEET, the longer the repellent works. Make sure to read the instructions before applying.
Another option is to use OFF! Skintastic insect repellent, which has been specially formulated to protect against both insects and the sun.
Have you ever been fishing with your son or daughter and had them start ranting and raving about being hungry? Nothing can satisfy a kids' growling stomach quite like Jack Link's Beef Jerky, which is low in fat (97 fat free) and high in protein. Jack Link's offers 11 flavors of jerky and several other meat products. And trust me on this, you can't eat just one. For more information, check www.linksnacks.com.
There's nothing worse than fishing without a quality trolling motor, and Minn Kota makes the best in the business -- and I've tried them all. I also highly recommend Minn Kota's new CoPilot remote control system that allows wireless operation of selected trolling motor models from anywhere in the boat and without having to use cords or a foot pedal.
That's a real plus.
The patented system consists of a compact remote control unit (about the size of a vehicle keyless entry remote) and a receiver unit that easily attaches to the motor.
The CoPilot comes with snap-lock mounting brackets that allow the remote control unit to be mounted on any fishing rod for easy, hands-on operation. This is a revolutionary product that allows you to navigate your boat and fish simultaneously. For more information, check www.minnkotamotors.com.
Use the checklist to help make sure you next outing is a good one!
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Editor's Note: Babe has shared his love of the outdoors with TV viewers for more than 25 years. Babe will share his tips and outdoor adventures weekly on sportsmansguide.com. In 1984, Babe's "Good Fishing" program debuted and later his "Outdoor Secrets" show became popular with hunting enthusiasts. Babe's programs appear on the Outdoor Life Network, WGN, Fox Sports Net, Fox College Sports, The Men's Channel, Sportsman's Channel, Great American Country, WILD TV, and Comcast. Babe also writes hunting, fishing and conservation columns that are carried by up to 350 newspapers each week. Winkelman sponsors include Chevrolet, Miller High Life, Johnsonville Brats, Crestliner Boats, St. Croix Rods, Browning, Hunter's Specialties, Nikon, Minn Kota, Optima Batteries, Mathews, Honda, and many more.