Camping Tip of the Day: No Reservations

Although this advice is completely out of character for me, I highly recommend taking a camping trip (7+days) with no reservations. Last June, Amy and I took an 11 day trip to Michigan without making any reservations ahead of time. Yes, it can be a bit risky. What if we would have gone to a campground and there were not sites available? However, the first two weeks of June are not high season for Michigan. Students are still in school until June 10th or so and the weather does not warm up until the end of June. So, it was a perfect time to go without reservations. For someone who needs a plan for everything, this trip was quite liberating for me. We camped somewhere for a while and when we were ready to leave, we packed up and hit the road. We never encountered a “no vacancy” situation. It was so nice to know that we were not tied down to any plan other than to find rest and relaxation in our camping experience.

Now, I would NOT recommend this during certain seasons. For example, I would not suggest heading to Florida during the Spring Break season without reservations. Nor would I suggest going anywhere during the 4th of July weekend without making reservations ahead of time. The chances of coming up empty-handed are too high.

But in the end, I still encourage you to try this, especially if you are the type-A personality (like me). You wouldn’t believe how freeing it is until you try it….

Sunrise over Higgins Lake

Sunrise over Higgins Lake

“How Can I Exercise While Camping?”

I know what you are thinking right now… really Doug? When I am camping – I am on vacation! When I am on vacation, I relax not exercise. I would totally agree with you if camping was defined as only a weekend occurrence. I know people who fit this description. They work all week and take off early on Friday afternoon to camp the weekend at a local state park or private campground. They’re back to work on Monday and their usual exercise regimen. For this type of camper, camping never involves long road trips and seasonal camping (all summer long) is out of the question. If this is the type of a camper you are then you can stop reading this post. Even most personal trainers will tell you that you should take time off. But if camping for you DOES involve trips that last more than an extended weekend, read on….

My wife and I took a wonderful 11 day camping trip to Michigan in celebration of our anniversary. Although I had been looking forward to this trip for a while, one concern was, “How am I going to exercise during this entire trip?” Naturally, when you are on vacation you are not going to eat as well as you should. So for me, there was no way I was going to skip lifting and cardio for 11 days. But how can you exercise when you are hundreds of miles from home or gym? Believe it or not, with a little creativity and pre-planning, you can keep fit while you do what you love the most; camping (duh!!) Sure, some of the ideas I am about to share are common sense and many are not my own. These are ideas I have read in various health magazines, talking with others, etc. These exercise tips will not be the same as your normal routine but will work. You will have to be flexible and adapt to the fact that you are not at home….

Cardio Exercise Tips for the Hardcore Camper:
#1- Run. All campgrounds have acres of roads that can be run. If you are camping in a smaller campground you may have to run all the roads several times to get the full effect but running is running.


#2. Hike the campgrounds trails. Many campgrounds have nature trails that surround it. Some may only be a 1/2 mile long but again, like with running you could go around several times to get the maximum cardio workout. If you are camping in a state park, there are usually miles upon miles of hiking trails. Research ahead of time. Depending on where you are camping, there are usually city or county parks that offer paved trails for walking, running, or biking.


#3. Bring your bike (or rent a bike). The one thing Amy and I see a lot at campgrounds is people riding their bikes. Biking is an excellent cardio workout that is easier on the knees and back than running. Many state parks now include mountain bike trails along with their hiking trails. If you don’t want to hassle with buying the right attachment for your tow vehicle (or camper), rent a bike. Some campgrounds offer bike rentals at a reasonable price.

#4. Stay at a campground that offers a fitness room. Yes, believe it or not, there are campgrounds that offer such a thing. We stayed at a KOA in Pigeon Forge and were happy to find out they had an exercise room. Now, this room was limited but it did the trick. The room had a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, bench, and set of weights ranging from 10lbs-45 lbs.

exercise room

#5. Swim. In most cases, Amy and I prefer state park campgrounds over private campgrounds. They are more wooded, spacious, and offer more hiking and “outdoor” experiences. However, the one thing most do not offer is a swimming pool. Most private campgrounds do have pools. So, if you can be patient and tolerate the children playing (and most likely screaming), jump in the pool and swim 25-30 laps. If the state park has a lake (or ocean), swim in them.

#6. Play basketball. I don’t think we have ever stayed at a campground that did not have a basketball hoop (if not a full court). I always bring a basketball and football with us when we camp. They fit nicely in the storage below our dining room table. Shoot hoops for a half hour. Better yet, make some new friends and challenge them to a one-on-one or two-on-two.

#7. Bring a jump rope. If you are like Amy and I (we have a pop-up), you are limited in space. A jump rope can be easily stowed away in your luggage. Did you know that an average guy weighing 180 lbs will burn 215 calories after a 15 minute jump rope session? If you don’t like to jump rope then do jumping jacks instead.

Strength Training for the Hardcore Camper

#1. Do push ups. Personal trainers will tell you that push ups are one of the best exercises for strength training because they not only work your chest, they also get your shoulders, abs, core, and torso, especially if you vary the type of push up. Best of all, push ups do not require you to bring along any equipment. However, there is a product that I highly recommend for push ups and it won’t add to much to your luggage space. It’s called the Perfect Pushup and really helps isolate various muscles depending on which form you use. Check out Perfect Pushups at

perfect pushup

#2. Use your luggage as weights. Your suitcase will more than likely weigh 30-40 pounds (full). Use it to do bicep curls, deltoid raises, bent-over rows, etc. Better yet, bring an empty backpack. When you are at the campsite, fill the backpack with as much as possible. The backpack’s upper handle/strap will probably work better than your suitcase for the exercises mentioned above. You can also use the backpack (filled) to take a “weighted” walk or hike. Be careful, however, if you have back problems.

#3. Use old milk containers as weights. Fill the gallon containers with water. Water weighs 8.34 lbs per gallon. For women, two milk jugs will be perfect for a toning up routine. For guys, you can use the milk jugs as well. Make “boxing” motions with a jug in each hand. When you are “punching” with an extra 8.34 pounds in each hand, you will definitely work your arms and shoulders. Plus, it will rev up your heart rate.

#4. Pack a set of resistance bands. These fit easily in your luggage and are great for people with back problems (that would be me). Instead of using weights, you are using natural resistance to workout any muscle groups. Google “resistance band workouts” and you will find a plethora of possibilities. Here is one link:


#5. Find a mature tree with a strong branch that is about a foot taller than you. Use it to complete pull ups.

#6. Find a set of steps, the more the better. Running up and down steps is a great cardio workout, but it also a great leg workout. Here is a link to some ideas on how to use stairs in a workout:


We found a challenging set of stairs (very steep in parts and a lengthy uphill hike) at Holland State Park in Michigan and saw several people exercising daily.

#7. If you just need the feel of a gym, do some research before the trip and determine the nearest gym to your campground. Many gyms like LA Fitness offer day passes. They can cost between $10-15 per day. Some offer weekly passes. If you are camping out in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Smokey Mountain National Park), it will be a hell of a drive to go the gym but if it’s that important to you, go for it.

In no way are these two lists exhaustive. There are many articles on the Web about exercise while traveling. Look them up and get new ideas for your next camping trip. If fitness is important to you, plan ahead, be creative, and remain flexible. Try things you would not ordinarily do as part of an exercise routine and you may be surprised how effective they are. I used to think resistance bands were only for woman….until I tried it out myself. Now, they are a normal part of my weekly routine.

Good luck and Happy Camping!!!

Misty Morning Mushrooms

We have had several days of rain in a row and several more are in the forecast. While it has been a curse to our camping plans, it was fun to see these beauties spring up this morning.  Thankfully I woke up early as they were shriveled up by noon.

Update: The rain has kept coming and each morning there are more and more! I have no clue what type they are but I love them as much as they seem to love our mulch!

Top Ten Reasons We Love Winter Camping

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We bought our first pop-up camper in December and couldn’t wait to try it out – so we didn’t wait!  We found some campgrounds  that were open year-round and spent the winter camping.  After several trips winter camping, however, we anxiously awaited the arrival of warmer spring weather.  We have camped several times this spring already, and while we love seeing the birds and flowers, and having access to shower houses often closed in the winter, there are some distinct things we miss about the winter:

10.  Wildlife is easier to see through bare trees.

9.  The campfire is more than just something pretty to look at…it’s warm!

8.  Solitude – no one else is crazy enough to be there, so you get your pick of campsites.

7.  No crying children. (Unless they are your own, in which case, no one is there to complain)

6. You burn more calories hiking in the cold.

5.  It provides a good excuse to go shopping for “winter gear”.

4.  If you happen to be lost, it is easy to retrace your footprints in the snow.

3.  Icicles make excellent weapons to ward off coyotes and bears.  (We have not tested this theory, but it seems   plausible)

2.  Snuggling is mandatory!  🙂

And the number one reason we love winter camping…