by Chuck "Cowboy" Crinnian
My suggestions on this list most likely will be biased. In a prior life, I used to backpack in the Colorado Rockies. Whatever you had in the campsite, you had to pack in and pack out. Weight and size mattered. However, in your Mooney, you don’t have a “if it fits-it ships” situation either. There are some weight considerations. Below are my personal recommendations for a great North 40 camping experience. Also included are some editorial comments. I will assume that you are a first timer, and that once you do this, you will come back. So my suggestions are aimed at the repeat offender. Also, since the Caravan has a large basecamp tent, many of the items from previous years that we all brought are now extra baggage. The tent is lighted, has 120v power, multiple charging stations and a sound system. There is ample seating and table space. There is no need to duplicate this facility, unless you are antisocial.
Good tie-down gear required. Suggest "The Claw", but other solutions will work. DO NOT USE the screw in the ground dog leash solution. There may be 50 kt winds with a thunderstorm, so invest in something that will keep your plane from departing the camp site.
Wheel Boards Simple 3/4" plywood can be used for a one time use. Will warp with moisture. But, you are a Caravanner, go out to the .99 cent store and get some plastic cutting boards. Weight is minimal and can be used over and over. The intent is not to have your wheels sink into the turf when it gets wet.
TENTS: There are a lot of tents out there, and a lot of price points. This is where you should not skimp on quality. We have seen temperatures from the 40’s to the 90’s. Dry and monsoon type rain. Winds up to the takeoff speeds of Mooney’s. If you are a couple, a good 2-3 person tent is adequate. You can store a lot of stuff in the plane. There are no tents with locks, so don’t store anything valuable in the tent. [That said, this is a safe place, but, don’t give an outsider any bait] Make sure your tent is secured for any significant wind-i.e.: tie it down, and stake it down.
For non-couples, consider two, 2 person dome tents. Without getting into social issues, personal space is good. Usual 2 person backpacking tents weigh about 7 lbs. That is a little more than a six pack.
Tents are like houses, some big, some not so big. This is a personal decision. Just remember that size=weight. If you are not too agile, consider a higher tent. But, too high may be an issue if there are strong winds. If a squall line comes in and you are not around to keep your abode on the ground, your stuff will be in the next county.
Ground Cloth: Big enough to cover the foot print of the tent. Important- do not let any part of the ground cloth be outside of the then footprint. If you do, you will be wet if it rains.
Tent Light: Simple, inexpensive LED light to have hanging from the top. Good for organizing stuff at night.
Sleeping Pad: There are many approaches. Foam pads, inflatable pads, or cots. I got a backpacking cot that rolls up in a small roll and weighs less than 2 lbs. It is the best yet. A bit pricy, but had the best sleep in it in 7 years of camping at Oshkosh.
Pillow: Bring you bed pillows from home, improvise with stuff sacks, or try the inflatable type. Experiment at home and bring what makes you comfortable.
Camp Bling: At one time, we did not have a large tent with a generator. Thus, it was common for folks to have shade tarps, lanterns, and solar powered yard lighting. You can do this if you want. Just remember, what you set up, you have to take down.
Moving in is more fun than moving out. Personally, I had solar powered battery rechargers, a sun shade, and sound system. That is not needed now. Your time will be spent with the group and with other activities. If you want to bring a Las Vegas light and sound show, be aware of you camping neighbors.
Beyond the basics, the following may enhance your camping experience. Remember, this is not a solo backwoods experience; you are with you Mooney comrades.
A word about how to pack; First, don’t over pack. It is easy to take a lot of clothes, but you likely will not need as much as you think. Likely you will collect a Caravan shirt, perhaps T-shirt. If you must, an EAA or other souvenir shirt. Containerize your cargo. All your soft goods in one bag is not ideal. You will be using your primary cargo bag at Madison and points to get there. Keep your overnight bag with just the daily essentials. Bring a stuff sack for your dirty laundry.
Be aware of weight and balance. I suggest you weigh groupings of your cargo and distribute rationally in the aircraft. With 2 guys and all the individual cargo, it is easy to be over gross weight with full fuel. Use a bathroom scale, weight yourself (tare weight) then gather groupings of items and re-weigh them as you hold them and subtract the tare weight.
Pack the aircraft so that when you arrive in the North 40, you can get the wheel boards and tie down kits out first. Next comes the tent. There may be inclement weather approaching after landing and having your tent up ASAP will be a priority. You can then set up housekeeping after the mass debriefing.