Sometimes guys just need campfires and whiskey
Story by Mark Nielsen & Logan Crumpton • Photography by Michael Nielsen
The reasons we seek adventure are many: the experience of something unfamiliar, the excitement of a fresh challenge, a reason to see the world around us with new eyes. And sometimes, if nothing else, it’s just to get outside. We can spend what feels like a lifetime chained to a routine — our actions dened by repetition, whether chosen or forced upon us — and one day we may look back and ask, what happened to my life? Well, not us. Not now. Collectively, we carve out time for adventure, for new experiences with friends, built around food and the outdoors, around doing something with style and purpose. ey’re experiences that can be dialed as far up or down as one may wish but that always inspire, aspire, and excite.
Our rst adventure was born from a relatively simple idea — to take camping to new heights. We grew up camping as friends, and it’s one of the activities we let fall behind over the years. As life moved on and dierent events changed us, we came to the realization that it’s the time spent together with family and friends that’s most important. For some, this awareness comes too late in life, at a time when the ship has sailed and friends or circumstances are no longer within arm’s reach. But we decided it wouldn’t be so with us. We would work hard to
carve out the time and the means to do what’s important to us, to build our friendships and create memories rather than regrets. ese are stories we could tell our grandchildren.
For us, camping was a simple choice. We’ve always loved the outdoors and the ability to construct great adventures in it. Remembering a time in our youth, when spending a
vacation was more about creating, using imagination, and being spontaneous, when the plan was no more than to just go. Taking liberties, we speak for men in general when we say we don’t get out enough. ere isn’t enough playing and camaraderie in our daily schedules. We don’t spend enough time sitting around an open ame, reminiscing about all the trouble we’ve caused as kids, while fat slowly renders o charred meat and good bourbon warms in a glass between cupped hands.
This trip was a monument to these things we’ve always loved about the great outdoors. e faint smell of campfire smoke in the middle of the night, being the first one awakened by the morning sun, and breathing in cold, crisp air not found in the city. To open your eyes without a fight and be happy about it. The taste of molasses and the sound of a kettle percolating evoke our memories of countless trips into the woods, the coastline, and beyond. These are the reasons we camp, why we seek the outdoors. We intend for this to serve as an inspiration for adventure, whether it be a weeklong wading through the everglades, a wetsuit-clad surf excursion, exploring some of the fantastic national parks, or even an overnight backyard campout.
We also want to share with you some incredible food, with our reimagined takes on the camp-kitchen classics we enjoyed as kids while accompanying our parents on trips. Now that we’re the ones doing the planning, packing, and cookery, it’s about time we did so with style. With the addition of a few select modern pieces of equipment that will take away a bit of the stress, we’ll show some of the classic techniques and tricks our Dads and Moms taught us to set up a great camp.
We struck out on a Friday afternoon, work and family obligations creating a later start for all of us than originally planned. Once on the road, however, all stress subsided and we were happy to just be guys in a truck. We rambled on like kids about our plans for the weekend: the food we would cook, the photos we wanted to get, and the logistics of loading our excessive amount of gear into canoes.
There would be no support boat, no easy way to our remote island campsite. It was just four guys and a dog, three coolers — one each for food, drinks, and ice — one amazing field kitchen, camera equipment, tents, firewood, clothes, propane, water, and various necessities. These would end up filling three canoes. As soon as we were on the water, we knew exactly why we were embarking on this adventure. Literally leaving land and trouble behind us, we paddled toward freedom, excitement, and a lot of hard work. We reached land at twenty past seven, not a far cry from nightfall. We set to work immediately building our camp, splitting duties between setting up the kitchen, cooking, starting a fire, and pitching tents. By the time camp was set and dinner ready, it was dark. Like nine thirty dark. But the results were magical. A steak and salad never tasted so good. In the last hours of Friday we sat around our fire, drinks in hand, and talked about our hopes and dreams — for this article, for the future, for Lakeland.
There were many more great moments that weekend, many more amazing meals cooked over fire and propane, many more ambitious thoughts and propositions, and many more chances for smile and laughter. And although things may not always be perfect or go exactly according to plan, adventure brings forth our knack for improvisation. Whether caused by rain, unseasonable heat, bugs, or some other setback, you learn to just roll with it and go with your instincts, to trust your gut. Because no matter what, the joy is still in the arrant satisfaction of getting away. And at the end of it all, one thing was sure: We were four men closer in friendship than before, determined that this would not be our last adventure.
Camping Gear: Andy Thornal
336 Magnolia Ave.
Winter Haven, FL 33880
Yeti Coolers: Stones Outdoors
2300 E. Edgewood Dr.
Lakeland, FL 33803
The style for this trip was pretty simple — jeans, boots, flannel shirts, and hats — staples of every guy’s fall wardrobe. It’s kind of hard to screw it up, but people do. The idea is to look like a man. I don’t look back at pictures of my dad or granddad in technical fishing shirts, ugly sweaters, or strappy sandals. Do you? No, this is a nod to a time when men were men and looked awfully fine in the process. Think of the smell of leather, Old Spice, and whiskey, and imagine what that looks like. Well, let me tell you. It looks like this.
Holding true to the thought of simplistic style, everything about the food plan was based on functionality. To literally lighten our loads, we created a menu with the intention of using a minimal amount of ingredients and cookware. Every dish had only a handful of ingredients that were repurposed throughout the trip. You could say that the flavor profiles spanned continents but weren’t so bold that they couldn’t be easily intermingled. For instance, if you happen to have leftovers at the end of your adventure, consider making a mash-up breakfast hash with a couple of fried eggs on top.
As far as cooking equipment is concerned, depending on how many cooks you have in your kitchen, here is a proposed checklist to act as your guide per four campers (assuming there’s a fire pit available).
1 double-burner portable propane camp stove
2 1-pound propane tanks
2 boxes of matches
2 kitchen knives
2 10-inch cast-iron skillets and 1 Dutch oven of matching size (or a versatile combo such as one from Lodge)
1 small collapsible saucepan
1 wooden spoon
1 set of grilling tongs
1 can/bottle opener
1 plastic cutting board gallon and small-sized resealable baggies
1 roll each of paper towels, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap
8 gallons of water (a JetBoil stove is perfect for hot water)
You’ll also need a dishwashing tub and soap to clean the cutlery, utensils, vessels, and drinkware.