Woody’s Neck of the Woods: Car Camping
Writer / Daniel Woody
Welcome to my neck of the woods! My name is Daniel Woody, and I’m a local photographer with a passion for outdoor adventure. I’ll periodically be writing brief columns related to all things outdoors, and my goal is to inspire, educate, and empower you to get outside and seek out new adventures around Indiana. We’re not known as an “outdoorsy” state, we don’t have big mountains or palm tree lined beaches, but there is still adventure to be had here if you know where to look. So, for my first column, I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite, quick & easy ways to experience the outdoors: Car Camping.
When I say car camping, I’m technically referring to “dispersed” camping. That’s the term to Google to find additional info on the topic. Generally speaking, dispersed camping is a term used to describe camping anywhere in a National Forest outside of a designated campground. The forest roads that run through national forests will often have primitive campsites scattered along their edge. I much prefer to seek out one of these free campsites, and avoid paying $20+/night to camp at a cramped and noisy campground, navigate here more about this.
Hoosier National Forest (HNF) has a number of dispersed campsites along its forest roads, and I’ve spent years driving most of them and documenting each campsite I’ve come across or camped at. They’re often spaced far enough apart that you feel like you have the whole forest to yourself. Each campsite will have a small, rock-ring firepit, and usually enough room to park 2-3 cars and set up as many tents. If you’re not familiar with HNF, I’d highly recommend contacting a Ranger Office first. The contact info for the HNF Ranger offices can be found at fs.usda.gov/detail/hoosier/about-forest/offices. The rangers will be able to guide you to the best areas for dispersed camping, and can also inform you of any hazards in the forest that you may encounter.
Fortunately, camping in Indiana is generally pretty forgiving for the uninitiated. We don’t really have any large predators, so you can rest easy at night anywhere in HNF. Smaller critters will be attracted by any food or trash you leave out, though, so be sure to keep those items contained inside your vehicle when not is use. In fact, it’s best to practice “Leave No Trace” principles whenever you’re outdoors, and pick up after others who have left their trash before you. I try to live by two general rules:
- If you pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave it better than you found it.
One of the upsides to car camping is being able to bring plenty of creature comforts with you. While camping can be done with minimal gear, if you have the option to carry it with your vehicle instead of on your back, you might as well throw in a few extra items to make your experience more enjoyable. You might also consider to bring emergency kits, cords, extra batteries to avoid any disturbing occurrence while on camping. If you want to buy a quality cord for safety purposes, check out this site link.
The phrase “bring everything but the kitchen sink” is more applicable here than ever before. If you do find yourself camping with a kitchen sink, then you’ve probably graduated to #VanLife or beyond…hopefully. Don’t be shy about packing an extra cooler just for your “beverages” or an air mattress for your tent. Throw in some extra jugs of water and a robust first aid kit, too. If you can safely carry it in your vehicle, better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
My creature comforts typically involve food. In my opinion, it’s hard to beat a tasty meal when you’re in the wilderness. Cooking can be intimidating for some, and maybe especially so outside of a traditional kitchen, but camp cooking should be easy and delicious. Spend some time before your trip searching the far reaches of the internet for “one-pot/pan” or “over-the-fire” recipes. Once those are in hand, I’d recommend doing a little food prep before your trip. If there’s anything I can do in my kitchen at home before I leave, that will translate to massive time savings when cooking at camp. Not to mention, if you injure yourself during food prep (we’ve all sliced a finger by accident before) it’s much easier to properly attend to your injury while at home than it might be out in nature.
Good food goes a long way towards making an experience enjoyable and bringing people together. My favorite go-to camp dinner is burritos. Burritos are perfect in every way, and I’ll prove it to you! First off, they’re simple to prepare. All you need is one skillet to cook your meat. Cook it over the fire or on a camp stove, and then add any topping you’d like. Secondly, burritos are portable. No plate or silverware required! And lastly, the leftovers are great for the next morning. Just cook up some scrambled eggs and throw the leftover meat in with them. BAM! You’ve now got yourself a breakfast burrito! Burritos: Easy to cook, easy clean up, and extremely portable. What’s not to love?
Food aside, you’ll also want to consider any outdoor activities you plan to do while you’re camping. Whether it’s sitting around camp while reading a book, or you want to go full weekend warrior, pack the gear to make it happen. Heck, you’ve got a vehicle, so you might as well strap some bikes or kayaks to it.
If you’re new to camping and in need of some gear, consider trying out a new service called Quiptu. It’s an online, peer-to-peer, gear rental service, and if you’re familiar with the interfaces of AirBnB, Turo, Outdoorsy, etc. then you’ll feel right at home on Quiptu’s website. Their platform offers a great way to try new gear or rent something specific for your next adventure. All the gear is provided by other local outdoor enthusiasts, so you might even make a friend while you’re at it!
Written by Daniel Woody
Follow my adventures on Instagram @daniel.woody