Adirondacks camping for the uninitiated.
June 6, 2012 2:21 PM   Subscribe

My teenaged younger brother wants to go "camping in the Adirondacks" this summer. What is that and how do you do it? Assume I have no camping or adventuring equipment, special clothing, or wilderness survival skills of any kind.

My younger brother has called to reserve a cabin near Lake Placid, NY, for five days in the second half of July. He wants to bring our middle-aged mother along. I am doing the trip planning.

I have not spent any time outdoors since summer camp in eighth grade. I am not averse to nature trips, but I have absolutely nothing resembling camping equipment or backpacking supplies.

What kind of experience should we be shooting for, as inexperienced overnight visitors to the Adirondacks? Given my situation, how can I ensure that all of us have a good time, enjoy ourselves, and stay active and occupied for five days? We will not be fishing, and we have no experience canoeing or kayaking or mountain climbing.

More specific questions:
  1. What kinds of wilderness/adventuring activities are likely to be available nearby? Which of them are "family-friendly"? Will I have to arrange these things beforehand?
  2. Which amenities of the civilized world are likely to be available? Should I expect to bring food and water for the entire trip, or will, e.g., a general store be within a short drive?
  3. What precautions should I take? Casual reading suggests that the black fly season will be over. Will there be ticks? What kind of climate should we prepare for? Hot, muggy days with cool nights?
  4. What would you consider indispensable equipment on a tip like this? Backpacks? Clothing? As far as I know, the cabin we're renting has no power.
  5. Apart from the cost of lodging, how much should I budget for the trip? I will be picking up the tab for room and board, equipment, and activities.
Is there anything else I should ask about or ensure before our arrival?

Many thanks for any advice.
posted by Nomyte to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Whoever you are renting the cabin from should be able to answer 95% of these questions for you. Start there. Probably the only skill you will need is the ability to light a stove.
posted by fshgrl at 2:24 PM on June 6, 2012

Bring toilet paper.
posted by exogenous at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are bears there. If you plan on doing any hiking, you may want to bring along Bear Spray.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:33 PM on June 6, 2012

OK, so a cabin has been rented. Which means you probably won't need a tent or a whole lot of other specialist camping gear.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to call ahead and find out if the cabin will include kitchen and bathroom facilities, running water, etc. My guess is yes, but I've never rented a cabin on Lake Placid, so I really don't know for sure. Chances are, even if you get a pretty well-stocked cabin, it's not going to have pillows or linens.

Bug spray and sunscreen are obvious choices. While it's likely that there will be a convenience store nearby, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to bring some food items that you know you'd like, just in case they don't have what you want or it's further than you thought or whatever. An ice chest would be good to have.

If you plan to do long day hikes, then a small backpack for water, snacks, sunscreen, and the like is good to have - even if you just have one and take turns carrying the whole group's load.

Every time I've been hiking I've worn long pants and good strong footwear. I feel more comfortable in something closed-toe, but plenty of people wear Tevas and Keens and the like. It might not be a bad idea to have at least something long sleeved to put on in the evening in case it gets cool.

Considering that your cabin is on/near a lake, maybe bathing suits and towels?

Canoeing is really simple and fun, assuming you are all decent swimmers.
posted by Sara C. at 2:37 PM on June 6, 2012

A good flashlight. Sara named everything else I thought of.
posted by jon1270 at 2:44 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

What fshgrl and Sara said, plus a corkscrew and a bottle opener (presuming that any of you drink), a frisbee, a deck of cards, a paperback novel and, if you're particular about something like coffee or liquor or pillowcases or shampoo or whatever, whatever you need to indulge your preference.
posted by box at 2:49 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Find out exactly what amenities the cabin has. Electricity? Stove? Fridge? Toilets and running water? What kind of beds? Any kitchen supplies/utensils? Then plan accordingly.

Assuming none of these things, lanterns, coolers and ice, warm sleeping gear will be very important. A deck of cards and maybe some other games. Camping classics like jiffy pop and s'mores ingredients. Maybe a hammock?

Some things you'll want in any case: toilet paper, good flashlights, comfy shoes, BUG SPRAY!, sleeping bags, towels, blankets, fire wood, lighter fluid/fire starting supplies - even if you have a stove having a fire is part of camping. Cooking utensils - tongs, forks, poker of some sort, and on and on. There are plenty of good checklists online.
posted by catatethebird at 2:58 PM on June 6, 2012

You might also go to the library and get a book about first aid, and maybe some field guides.
posted by box at 3:04 PM on June 6, 2012

A good flashlight. Sara named everything else I thought of.

A headlamp is a little bit better for potentially walking around in the dark in unfamiliar areas, because you'll have both hands free (to eat beef jerky, spray bug spray, fight off bears, &c).
posted by elizardbits at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2012

Yeah, you really need to call them and ask them what specific amenities they have. Do they have a fridge? Do they have a stove? Do they have pots and pans, or will you need to furnish your own? What about a coffee pot? Utensils? Stemware?

If they don't have a fridge, you're going to need an ice chest and access to more ice once you're out there. If they don't have a stove but do have a grill, you're going to need to bring charcoal.

Do they have beds? Is the place insulated? Ask what their low temps are averaging and decide whether you want to buy a full on sleeping bag, get by with a sleeping bag liner (not as warm as a bag), or just bring some sheets and blankets.

Backpack? Not a bad idea if you're going to go on a hike, but I don't think you'd need it. Mountain climbing? You're not going to climb any mountains. You might walk on some trails that go up steep hills, but you're not going to bust out a rope and harness. Bring some shoes or boots that you can comfortably walk a few miles in.

Bring a camera.

If you're worried about ticks, wear clothing pre-treated with bug repellant or spray your clothing with a bug repellant like permethrin. Spray DEET on your skin if you want more protection.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2012

If you're near Lake Placid, you probably will be within 30 minutes to grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants. So you'd probably be fine with bringing just one day's worth of perishable food to the site each day and then restocking on your way back from day trips. It can get quite cold in the evening, and cold and damp in the morning. Definitely have long pants and sweaters/hoodies even if the days are in the 80's. can offer a lot of suggestion for hikes, and rates them for difficulty. There are mountains you can climb even if you're a beginner. If you're staying at a State Park, they may offer guided hikes and other activities, so check into that. We've done that at Higley Flow State Park, which is north of the High Peaks area. Another nice spot to get to know the area is the Visitor Interpretive Center in Paul Smith's. Nice easy trails there.

There are a few museums in the area also, sorry to say I haven't been to them yet. The Wild Center is fairly new and nature-oriented. Or The Adirondack Museum which has a historical bent.Or you can look into summertime activities located around the Olympic Facilities. Gondala rides, Bobsled rides, watching ski-jumpers splash into a pool, lots of other events.

Honestly, just finding an ice-cream stand and a scenic overlook is wonderful. Great one at a Dairy farm on route 86 between Saranac Lake and Paul Smith's. Or in Long Lake at Custard's last stand.

If you want to memail me with details of where you're staying I could help more. Only lived there for about 6 months, but live about 2 hours away from Placid now and visit the area a lot.
posted by saffry at 3:16 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

The closest stores will stock everything that everyone forgets or runs out of -- so you needn't worry too much.
posted by lathrop at 4:11 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're near Lake Placid, you are good to go in terms of buying supplies and provisions. There is an EMS in Lake Placid. Depending on your route to get there, there is a well stocked Dick's Sporting Goods store in Glens Falls as well as a Walmart that has both walmart stuff and groceries. They sell camping and cabin stuff. I usually go up with an empty cooler and buy my provisions there on the way to my camp an hour north west of there. I am pretty sure there is a PriceChopper grocery store in Lake Placid.

My guess is that you are probably between Lake Placid and Saranac. Both are great little towns in the summer (and winter). Plenty to do in terms of fishing, canoeing, camping, hiking, climb mountains and other outdoorsy things. You could even rent a motor boat. Black fly season is usually from Memorial day to mid June, sometimes extending to 4th of July. That said, there will be bugs in the woods. There will also be animals. (Never had to use my sidearm.) Take steps to secure your food and cabin.

Nothing better than waking in the woods, eating a bacon and egg breakfast, hiking a mountain then returning to camp for a hearty dinner and a few beers, guitar playing around a big fire!

I have a camp about 45 minutes from Lake Placid. First rule of thumb is to never leave any food in the car or trunk of the car. Not even a candy bar. Bears will try to get into your car and will scratch the shit out of it. Garbage and food should be secured. I am up in the ADK woods ALOT and have only seen black bears at night foraging for food. Never seen them during the day. Recently saw my first moose! What a sight! Moose was HUGE.

Lake Placid was the site of the Olympics. There are some neat tours of the facilities. Although it is the wrong time of the year, we love to do the biathalon course of cross country skiing followed by shooting of the .22 rifle.

Here is a link to camping on Saranac Lake. Here is a link to a site dedicated to the town of Saranac Lake. Lots to do. I have a soft spot for Saranac because it is the end of the Adirondack 90 miler canoe race. My first year, I was never so tired and never so happy to see a finish line as we found in Saranac. Then we partied!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:26 PM on June 6, 2012

There are bears there. If you plan on doing any hiking, you may want to bring along Bear Spray.

You don't need to worry about bears. Bear spray is what you use as a last resort when you're about to be mauled by a grizzly.

Yes, there are black bears there. Yes, a black bear can potentially kill a human. However, black bears are not grizzly bears. Black bears are basically big raccoons. They like food, even human food, and they will do what they can to get it but they are not at all interested in humans. Almost all incidents between black bears and humans involve humans being very, very stupid. Should you be lucky enough to see a black bear admire it from a distance. If it starts walking towards you just back away, don't run. Under no circumstances should you try to take a black bear's food (even if it was YOUR food ten minutes ago) or get between a mother and her cubs. Most likely you will not see a bear. They're pretty good at avoiding humans.

If there is an accessible dumpster or trash bin at your cabin it might be visited by bears at night. Most likely if this is the case the owners have long since devised a way to lock it to keep the bears out. You can inquire about this when you call. Don't leave any food out at night.

Seriously though, black bears are nothing to concern yourself with. Seeing one is a treat, provided you treat it with respect.

Your main hazard will be hitting a moose while driving at night. This is a real thing that happens. Moose have long legs the same color as asphalt. Their bodies are black as night. Your headlights will shine under their bodies so you will not see them right away. When a car hits them the car takes out the legs and the moose often crashes through the windshield. Drive carefully, be alert, scan the road. Use your high beams. When a car is coming at you dim your beams and look low and to the side of the road to avoid getting blinded while you continue to scan the road.

During the rest of the day moose are a treat. At night moose turn into hazards.

Ticks are the other hazard. Wear long pants if you can, but don't worry if you're in shorts. Check yourself every night, including all your nooks and crannies. Yeah, this means under/in/around whatever type of genitalia you possess. Bring some tweezers if you need to remove them.

Other than that most people have covered what needs to be covered. Have fun!
posted by bondcliff at 9:28 PM on June 6, 2012

Good hiking shoes for everyone, worn several times and for several miles before you get there. Buy sturdy shoes, walk around your neighbourhood in the evening.

Plan most of your meals in advance so that you knew what groceries to buy.

Get a good map of the area you will be staying in that has hiking trails on it... Probably available at REI

Depending on your enthusiasm and aptitude, get a compass and remind yourself how to use it in the bush.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:39 AM on June 7, 2012

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