This past weekend I camped at Cloud Canyon National Park with my crew (my younger sister and my cousin, who’s basically my freakin sister). I love being outdoors, I literally hit a state of depression when I get back to the real world and have to prepare for the work week– but my crew, not so much.
I’ve been trying to get these two to go camping since my trip to Arizona. I could tell they were both a bit nervous and stressed about joining me for two days in the North Georgia mountains. My sister told me that she was excited but when she thought about sleeping in the woods for 2 days she nearly had a panic attack. I understood how for some sleeping in the woods could be a scary prospect especially at night, so I wanted to make sure I planned the entire trip to make it more comfortable for my crew, in hopes that they would fall in love with it and want to return. I knew food would play a major role in them determining if they would ever camp with me again so I got to prepping.
Let’s be honest, I don’t know very many POC who like to camp. I can count the people I know on one hand and still have one or two fingers left, so my opportunity to camp with those closest to me can be few and far between. So I’m use to the comments I receive from friends and family about my love for the outdoors being “some white people shit”. It can be hard to explain an accurate definition to this term if you lack a certain level of melanin-inity or have never heard it used in the correct context. But “white-people shit” can typically result in things that are seen as outside the norm for things that black people typically ‘do’. Nascar, white-people shit. Hiking the Grand Canyon, white-people shit. Hiking in general, white-people shit. Camping– oh most definitely, white-people shit. Is this closeminded on the part of those who say it? Sure. But, is there a reason why the majority of POC don’t camp or see camping as something outside the norm? Double yup.
To be fair there are reasons why historically black folk haven’t participated in some of these activities, due to various obviousreasons (slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, struggling to provide a life for their family equal to that of their more fair skinned peers, etc., etc.) so pretending to be homeless and sleeping in the woods wasn’t a luxury our past ancestors put on their list of priorities. Considering the fact that most were one step away from this way of life being their reality. Regardless of our lack of history with camping I feel that it’s extremely important that minorities spend more time in nature and experience the healing affects it can have on a person. We have to break this stereotype that we don’t camp, something we reinforce in our own community by stating this activity can be limited to the “white-people shit” category.
“Taking a break from the day to day struggle that comes with being a person of color and connecting with Mother Nature can help us learn and grow and challenge the norm of what a POC is expected to do in the outdoors. I think it is extremely necessary that we learn how to appreciate our local parks and forest and teach the next generation the value in protecting our planet. Enjoying the outdoors shouldn’t be frowned upon by POC, but embraced.”
The task of building a fire and cooking can be a tedious, time consuming task. ‘Specially if you have no help with setup because your other two camp mates are running on some serious CP time and don’t get to the damn camp ground ’til after dark! So…it’s best to be prepared and get the food going as soon as possible. Kindling, fuel logs, matches and lighter fluid (or coals if you wanna cheat like we did on night #2) will help you build a proper fire. Let you fire roar for a bit and when the flames die down some throw your food on a portable grill and get started.
I love cooking while camping, to me the food tastes twice as good. Maybe it’s the anticipation of a meal after getting to camp and setting up the tents, hammock and other gear. It could also be the fact that I am just always hungry (now that I think of it, yea that’s probably it). Anyone who knows me is aware that I like to eat. I don’t snack, I EAT. I also enjoy eating food that tastes good. I’m not a fan of bland dehydrated camp food so when I can I go all out with meal prepping and planning to make sure I have a nice meal at the beginning & end of each day.
I’ve been told by several fellow campers and hikers that you will typically eat less while on the trail. Ahem, sooo not true– well for this fat girl at least. I still need three solid meals a day while I’m camping, two at a minimum if I’m doing an all day hike. I typically prepare for long hike days with a large breakfast full of carbs and protein. I also carry snacks on the trail with me (snacks on snacks on snacks), an apple with peanut butter and a pack of jerky to cover my bases. During my hike of the Grand Canyon I learned which snacks I should and shouldn’t include in my pack to suit my body and metabolism. Believe me when I say Pringles & pepperoni were a major life saver for that trip. I could probably hear my guide opening his pack of pepperoni from a mile away. Ever seen a dog react to a cheese wrapper being opened? Yea, something like that – ain’t no shame in my game.
Some of my favorite tips on cooking outdoors:
- Measure ingredients for each meal ahead of time and pack in ziplock bags. Label each bag accordingly. I always separate my veggies and meat to cook separately to account for the difference in cook time.
- Prepare chili or casseroles ahead of time and freeze to keep in cooler. These type of meals serve as a great quick lunch if sandwiches and chips aren’t enough for your appetite, like me. Pro-tip: I would be ready to trip you down a cliff if you only gave me a sammich for lunch. Additional pro-tip: loading your chili or casserole with carbs and beans will help you power through a strenuous hike, prayers up for the last man on the trail tho.
- Heavy duty aluminum foil IS A MUST. You can use it for practically everything, covering food, food packets to cook veggies, plates for when your sister forgot to bring some (smh, rookie) but trust me, you will want it.
- Freeze all meat before putting it in your cooler. No one likes angry-poops so don’t give your camp food poisoning, plus it will help keep other foods cold and keep longer. Make sure you double bag your meat to prevent ice melt from getting into the bags.
- Cover your pots when you cook, food will heat quicker and helps keep dirt and bugs out of your food. ‘PACIFICALLY useful if you have a sister who insists on throwing leaves in the fire while you cook the scrambled eggs! Burnt leaves in your eggs does not enhance the flavor, fyi.
- I prefer to keep my food stored in a cooler in my car when I am car camping. I don’t want to risk attracting black bears or raccoons so I don’t chance it. Having you’re food stolen by sneaky little banded bastards is SUPER inconvenient, trust me. Rocko (my dog) learned this first hand when I thought he finished all of his dog food in his travel bowl. Later that night there was plenty of fuckery afoot when Rocko decided to retaliate against the dog food bandit and chase it into the dark woods on his own. Nope. He eventually came back when he remembered he was afraid of the dark.
- Get a separate cooler to store sodas and adult beverages. This will prevent others from constantly opening the food cooler and melting the ice quicker. The drank cooler is a must because camping is more fun with liquor, trust me.
Try planning a car camping trip at your nearest national park. Car camping allows to to carry a few more comforts from home if you are newer to the whole sleeping outdoors thing. It also allows for a speedy exit if you decide randomly that you can’t take it and want to return to civilization (booooooooooooo). Just remember to always pack out what you bring and leave the area as you found it. Her name is Mother Nature but she ain’t yo mama and there isn’t anyone to come and clean up after you. Be respectful of our shared spaces so that others can enjoy them for generations to come.