Coyote camp is a very special place for me. There is just nothing else that matches the freedom of wandering the far lonely places and camping wherever I end up at the end of the day. Just to get up early the next morning and do it all over again. Free as the wind to go wherever I please.
I spend a lot of nights every year “camping”. Besides camping out amongst ’em while coyote hunting, I do a good bit of wandering around remote areas throughout the year, just to see what I can see. Averaging around 50 nights a year in a sleeping bag, for the past several decades.
That’s quite a bit of camping. Over a long period of time. I have it nailed down pretty high speed and low drag for how I personally like to roll.
But it’s probably a bit different than what most people tend to think of as “camping”. It might be better described as bivouacking, more than camping. But, I call it camping.
On a coyote hunt and most of my other exploring trips, camp is just a place to stop and eat dinner and sleep for the night. Often as not, I won’t be making camp until dark or just before dark and I’ll have camp fully stowed and be ready to roll again by first light.
Most of these camps are in spots I’ve never camped before and probably won’t ever camp again. A lot of them, I think nobody has ever camped before or will again.
Rolling new country, in the dark, I’m not the least bit picky about where to make camp. Just damn near any spot that is kinda flat and big enough for my tent will do. I’m usually in lonely enough country that setting up a tent or a cot right in the middle of the road works fine if need be.
In fair weather, I usually don’t use a tent. Simply setting my sleeping bag on a cot under the stars. Cot camps are my favorite as I love sleeping under the stars and these camps are almost instant to setup and take down.
My needs are minimal. But, I won’t abide suffering, either. I stay warm, dry and well fed in these quick and easy one night camps.
Camp, all of it – tent, bedding, cook stove, table, chairs etc., needs to be very fast and easy to deploy. Even in the dark in any kind of weather. No crappy zippers or fussy fasteners or gear that fights cold fingers. Everything needs to be dead simple easy and reliable.
Experience goes as far as equipment choice when it comes to setting up efficiently in challenging conditions. Using your gear many, many times, teaches you how to deploy it without needing to even think about what goes where or how it goes together when you are dog tired and it’s freezing cold blowing snow in the middle of the night.
My current kit hasn’t changed much for about 20 years now. So besides being made up of easy to use gear, I’m real used to all of it, too.
In good weather with daylight, by myself, it’s 15 minutes from turning off the Jeep, to have my tent and bed completely setup, and a delicious rib eye steak sizzling in butter. That’s without trying to hurry.
If I’m kicking away snow, setting up in pitch dark, in a blizzard, it takes a little bit longer. But still well under 30 minutes to be sitting comfortably on my cot cooking a rib eye in my toasty warm tent.
Because camp is so minimal and fast and easy to deploy, I can hunt or explore right up until it’s almost too dark to see and have everything setup for a good nights sleep within minutes.
My camp needs to be as easy and fast to take down and pack up for travel as it is to setup. In truth, it takes me a few minutes longer to roll up the tent and stow the cot than it does to deploy them.
Typically, I’ll get up and get dressed, then start some water boiling for coffee. I can have the tent, cot and sleeping bag all down and just about stowed by the time the water boils. Pour a cup of coffee, start some more water boiling and finish packing up camp while the second pot boils. I usually have everything packed and am just waiting for that second pot to boil to fill the thermos so I can put the stove away.
About 20 minutes, from opening my eyes to having camp completely broke down and packed away in the Jeep, ready to roll. Big mug of hot coffee and whatever I decide to munch on for breakfast. Wheels up before first shooting light.
I eat good on these trips. My usual is a rib eye steak and a vegetable or salad for dinner. Steaks pack easy, travel well, are easy to cook and delicious! The perfect camp food. Breakfast is on the run, granola bars or pastries or maybe use some hot water to make oatmeal. But I don’t normally take the time to cook in the morning – I’m moving before first light. Lunch is whatever floats my boat – cold fried chicken, cold cut sandwiches, whatever.
On a recent trip with my friend Steve, the regulator for his camp grill pooped the bed. So we had no stove, nor frying pan. But, it turned out alright. We got a hardwood fire going for some nice coals. I found some pieces of broken iron grate laying in the sage brush . And we had just about the best camp ribeyes there has ever been! Dang that was a good steak…
One of the best gear purchases I have ever made is the ARB fridge/freezer I carry all my perishables and cold drinks in. Never have to worry about melting ice or soggy food. Way, way better than any ice chest. Mine is nine years old now, so it has more than paid for itself in the ice I haven’t bought. And it’s been through tens of thousands of miles of rough offroad use. It often rides in the back of a pickup truck open to the weather and dust. It hasn’t had a hicup yet. But if it dies tomorrow I’ll buy another one the next day. The fridge is the way to go!
For a grub box to carry all my utensils, pots, pans dry goods etc. I have a waterproof, dustproof, varmint proof, welded aluminum “river box”. It has served admirably for about 15 years now and still going strong.
For cook stove, just a plain old Coleman propane jobby. They don’t last forever, I’ve been through a few. This one is about six years old now and is probably about due for replacement. For the size and weight, they work great while they work though so I’ll get another one just like it.
The stove stand is one of my pieces of gear that has been in use the longest. I’ve had it for 37 years now.
The tent I use most is my old Springbar. It’s just big enough for two cots with an aisle in between them. A palace for just me. I’ve had it more than twenty years, so it has an awful lot of nights on it, and it shows. But it’s still keeping me warm and dry. Just smells a little funny is all, ha-ha-ha! And the coyote blood stains on it from riding in the back of the truck with dead coyotes too many times has given it a certain character, too.
My cot, is a Coleman brand from Walmart. It’s the kind that simply folds out, and has a mat held to the frame by springs. It has a steel frame which I have found lasts a lot longer than the ones with aluminum frames. But, these still only last me a few years each before the springs start falling off and getting lost and they get not as comfortable and I have to buy another.
The pad I use started as a Cabelas brand cot pad in a canvas cover. It worked great for a long time with the original foam pad. But, it got pretty soaked in coyote blood a couple times and got kind of funky. I washed the cover good and bought a new, denser piece of 3” foam to go in it and it has been even better than new since.
Sleeping bag, nothing special, just a Browning brand oversize, canvas covered, flannel lined bag with lots of room. I use the same one year round, simply leaving it unzipped in warm weather and wearing wool long johns to bed when it’s cold.
Can’t have a really comfy camp without a table and chairs. The chairs I use are very comfy and take only one second to deploy or fold up. They don’t weigh much and don’t take up as much space as you might think. I have the same ones for more than twenty years and they are starting to get pretty worn though. Not sure how many more years they have left in them. But, these are great.
Table, just a simple little folding aluminum job from Walmart. It has held up surprisingly well for over ten years now. But it too, like much of my kit, definitely shows it’s age and use. But, still going strong!
And that is all I’ve really needed to quickly get comfortable in any weather, get a good meal and a good nights sleep on well over a thousand nights out and about wherever I happen to end up.
What does your coyote camp look like?