The Birmingham News
April 17, 2005

How not to hate camping
Mike Bolton, news staff writer

Camping is not a complicated endeavor, but done wrong it can lead to an experience so unpleasant that many first-time campers will never make another attempt.

Mark Holzman doesn't have a cure for those whose only attempt at camping was fraught with ants, mosquitoes, snakes in sleeping bags, pouring rain, leaking tents, cold weather, hot soft drinks and nasty food. For those who want to try camping and are looking to avoid the pitfalls, however, his how-to DVD "The Beginner's Guide to Camping" is nothing short of the Holy Grail.

There are numerous camping guides in book and video form, but most are funded or sponsored by camping equipment manufacturers and are nothing short of infomercials for their products. Holzman, a professional videographer and avid camper, avoided the lure of outside funding to create an unbiased guide to camping that is rich with helpful hints.

Experienced campers will likely find the "The Beginner's Guide to Camping" laughable because of its corn-ball humor and its simplicity, but the guide is designed for novices with the assumption that they have never gone camping before.

Even those for whom camping is new understand the need for a tent and a cooler, but the need for a hammer (try driving tent stakes into the ground with a rotten log) and bungee cords (a trash bag not hung high in a tree attracts dogs and raccoons) is not always so evident.

The guide details the steps to avoid the pitfalls that ruin so many initial camping trips. A family of four, for instance, may think it only logical to buy a tent that sleeps four, but a tent that sleeps six or eight has extra room for duffle bags and other items campers will want to bring inside at night.

It also explains the importance of a high-dome tent, a convenience novice campers can only appreciate after trying to get dressed while bent over.

A camping weekend without sleep will make another trip unlikely, the guide suggests, and outlines many options for sleep including choosing sleeping bags, cots and air mattresses.

Experienced campers understand the importance of a liner beneath a tent to separate the tent from the cold, damp ground, but that may become evident to a novice only after finding his sleeping bag saturated on a rainy night.

The camping guide wisely recommends avoiding primitive camping on initial outings. It suggests that better choices are state and private campgrounds with electrical hookups, running water, toilet facilities, bathhouses and camp stores. Those amenities, along with a flock of newly discovered friends their age, are likely to make a difference in whether kids become campers for life or never want to return.

A portion of the video is dedicated to camp cooking and stresses the importance of providing good food for kids. Sardines and Spam may be OK for a group of fishermen, but isn't likely to entice mom and the kids back for a second camping outing.

The guide recommends campers do their homework on the campground they will visit to know if grills are available. It also says there is no sin in mixing things up by getting in the car and going to a restaurant. The $19.95 DVD is available at Barnes&, and

© 2005 The Birmingham News
reprinted with permission