For the uninitiated, camping may seem like way more trouble than it’s worth. (Um, why would you willingly give up a hot shower and a warm bed?) But camping is the stuff classic summer memories are made of. We chat with Ret — avid outdoorsman, Colorado Outward Bound Board Member, and cofounder of Ned — about the joys of roughing it and what you need to get going.
Ned: What makes you a camping expert?
Ret: I've spent hundreds of nights out beneath the stars, typically thirty or forty in any given year. From heading out with nothing but a knife, to setting up camp with all the luxuries my truck can carry, or even just in the backyard, it's all good fun for me!
Ned: When did you fall in love with camping?
Ret: My dad got us out camping from a very young age. I started going alone and with friends as young as eleven. As a kid it was about the romance and fun of it all. Later it became about reconnecting with nature and the peace and wellbeing that it seemed to bring me like nothing else could.
Ned: What was your best camping trip?
Ret: In the summer of 2016, I spent six weeks entirely outdoors. I ranged throughout the Colorado Rockies and into Southern Utah. I camped each night and bathed in rivers and mountain lakes. I was able to keep up with work the entire time and even became more productive. It was an experiment for me to see just how productive and "in the flow" I could get. The answer was greater than I imagined. Wanting to share that feeling and know-how was part of what led to the creation of Ned.
Ned: What was your worst camping trip?
Ret: The boys from "Deliverance" would certainly disagree, but there are no bad camping trips. There are only those less comfortable or less fun than others. That said, the least comfortable I've ever been on a trip was when I spent a night in a snow cave at 11,000 feet in sub-zero temperatures. Without going into the details, it was a very long and very cold night. Thinking about it now though, I wouldn't trade it for just another night in a warm bed.
Ned: Why do you like to encourage other people to go camping?
Ret: I could go into detail on all the well-documented psychological and physiological benefits, but sleeping outdoors just plain makes you feel better. It creates memories we can draw on to know we were here. It's what we as a species did for the vast majority of our existence. It's written in our DNA and provides a direct connection to our first home, nature.
Ned: Tell us about your involvement in Outward Bound and why you’re so passionate about it?
Ret: Outward Bound's mission is very close to my own personal mission of helping people find a deeper connection to the natural world. As a teenager, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend a course in Maine. That course would change my life. Today, one of my greatest honors is the opportunity to provide others with scholarships through my position on Colorado Outward Bound's Board of Advocates.
Ned: What is your essential camping gear?
Ret: When it comes down to it, a good sleeping bag and sleep pad is all you really need. That's coming from a guy who has a shed filled with camping gear though! Regardless, these two items are where you should start and not cheap out. Get a warmer bag than you think you'll need and a sleeping pad that will be as comfortable as possible. A headlamp, knife, and reliable fire starter are a few other “essentials.” It's always nice to have some extra creature comforts along on the trip too. My Ptezle thermos is perhaps my favorite piece of gear. A hot drink can really put a new perspective on things.
Ned: How can I get camping gear together without spending a fortune?
Ret: See what gear you can borrow from friends. A number of major cities have places you can rent gear, including at REI. Check Craigslist. Look for the sales at REI and Backcountry.com. Know it's an investment that if you enjoy camping, you can amortize over many trips. We still use the Kelty backpack my dad carried in his adventuring days before I came along and put a damper on that.
Ned: What is your best camping advice?
Ret: If you weren't already, come morning, you'll be glad you're there. Remember that when you’re cold at night or think a bear is gonna get you. Also, leave no trace that you were there. Not only will those who come after you be glad you did, but so will you with the knowledge you did the right thing.
Ned: How can I find a good camping spot near me?
Ret: For me a good camping spot is anywhere outdoors where no one will bother you. A good view doesn't hurt either. Now off you go! The mountains are calling!