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This is an interview that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started thinking about doing a tent camping blog. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of appearing on the “Happy Camper Radio” podcast twice in the past, talking about my outdoor books (Pie Iron Recipes, episode HCR-15-119, and The Best Tent Camping Guide, episode HCR-17-176), and now it was my turn to put Skip into the hot seat to answer questions. Skip Huber is a tent camper himself as well as the host of “Happy Camper Radio”, and you can learn more about Skip and listen to every episode of the podcast at his website, www.happycamperradio.com. Skip has had an ever-evolving career with radio since he was a young kid in Pennsylvania, and today hosts his own podcast. Join me now in Part 1 of our interview as we dive into Skip’s radio past, how he got into podcasting and the fun he’s had around the technology of radio and the Internet.
What gave you the idea to start Happy Camper Radio?
Skip: I’m going to go back years ago, like when I started camping, very, very young, right about that age I decided that I wanted to be in radio. I had the dream all of my life to be a radio DJ. As I got older, I still had that dream. I was doing some freelance work at the time, but I also came up with this crazy idea, and believe it was crazy, because a lot of my parents’ friends were telling me I was nuts, I decided that if I was going to be in radio, what would be so wrong with owning your own radio station? Believe it or not, I actually built a small-market FM radio station in the town of Kane, Pennsylvania, McKean County, Pennsylvania it was. Back in the early 1980s I applied for an FCC construction permit, got the construction permit, teamed up with somebody who had the technical know-how and actually built with surplus equipment a small-market FM radio station. And I ran that radio station for 3 years, and it came to the point where the station wasn’t growing any further, half of my signal was going out into the wilderness because it was in a remote area. It wasn’t a big money-maker but I had a lot of fun doing it, so radio’s always been in my blood.
When the world of podcasting came about, I decided I’m going to buy some podcasting gear. Let me tell you, just like camping equipment, yes, I’ve gone overboard with it. (chuckles) You’ve seen some of the pictures, both on social media and our website, and now we’ve got a fully decked-out professional broadcast studio. So I went ahead and built this (studio) and its been a work-in-progress for the past 5 years, but in the process of building this podcast studio, I’m saying to myself ‘wow, I need a topic’, and they always tell you if you’re going to talk about something, talk about something you have a passion for. What do you think was the very first thing that came to the top of my head? Yes, camping! I love camping, I live camping, I breathe camping, I sleep camping. So, camping was going to be the topic of the podcast, and here we have Happy Camper Radio.
The funny thing about this is, when I was preparing to do the first show I didn’t know what I was going to call it. I thought maybe, oh what the heck, I’ll call it The Camping Show. And everybody just kind of frowned at me and said wait a minute, that’s just too plain. The lady of the house (Skip’s roommate) came up with the name Skip The Happy Camper. And I thought about it, you know that’s not a bad saying. And from there it became Happy Camper Radio. And that was before we even threw the microphone switch. We’ve been at it now for over 5 years, still going strong, still building an audience. And listeners from all over the world!
Do you have a favorite episode of the show?
Skip: My favorite episode…. You’re not making it hard enough! (laughs) I’ve got to say that it’s episode number 10.
TTL (The Tenting Life): Really, that far back?!
Skip: Episode number 10. Well, because I go back and I listen to it every now and then. I’ll tell you what the punch line is here. Daniel (his co-host) just got on board, and this was maybe his third or fourth or fifth episode, and he had just gotten back from a camping trip in north Georgia. While he was up there, he had been over to our house several hours before he hit the road, and he was on the computer, but when he left he forgot to sign out of his Facebook account. My roommate found this, and she started posting all kinds of cute little messages on his Facebook page. He (Daniel) picked up on this but didn’t know where it was coming from, and his wife had no earthly clue where it was coming from. They thought it was someone who was staying at their house at the time, which was her sister. So my roommate is posting about this camping trip that they’re on had Daniel going to a quilt show. (host chuckles) And Daniel had no clue that I knew what was going on. So in Episode 10 after they got back we started talking about this right at the beginning of the show. We talked about how relaxing it was and how great it was to get away. Then I said “Daniel, I heard you went to a quilt show,” and he just busted out laughing. It’s something that, to this day, we still kick around and laugh about, Daniel and his quilts.
You’ve been adding to your home studio for quite a while, but how did you start out the show? How basic was the setup when you started?
Skip: The first thing I did was purchase a half-decent audio mixer. The mixer I was using at the time I am now using for remote podcasts when we’re away from the studio. It is an Allen & Heath ZED-14, and it has the ability for me to have up to 6 microphones, and all kinds of gadgets as well. But that’s what I started out with. I believe in using good equipment when you can afford it, so I got a broadcast microphone right from the very get-go, and it’s a Shure SM7B, and I got a professional mic arm to go along with it. I also bought a decent audio console desk, which I’m using to this day. So that was the basic setup that I started with.
When did you decide that you wanted a mobile studio?
Skip: I had that idea right from the very start, because I knew there were going to be times when I was away from the studio, and if you’re going to talk about camping and you’re going to podcast, what better way to really get into the program than to be out there doing what you really love doing? I knew I was going to have a podcast outfit that I could take on the road with me. I have the opportunity now to hook up 4 microphones in addition to a host microphone.
TTL: Have you had people from the campground come in and join you when you’ve done these remote recordings?
Skip: Yes I have. At one of my favorite campgrounds, we’ve actually podcasted from right around the campfire. We were sitting in our camping chairs by the fire, and everyone had a micropone in their hands. If you go back in our archives and look for “A Tribute To Jimmy Atkinson” (2014, episode HCR-14-82), in that episode you’ll be able to hear the fire roaring in the background as we’re talking.
How did your first camping “remote” podcast go?
Skip: The very first remote episode that I did was not at a campground. It was in early Fall, and I was by myself. I actually did it in my recliner from my back deck. (chuckles) I had a headset on with a microphone, and I did a chat for about 30 minutes, did some editing and turned it into an episode for the show.
Skip is a wealth of information when it comes to podcasting and tent camping. He has the great opportunity to combine two of his passions into an enjoyable pursuit that he intends to continue into his upcoming retirement. This first part of our interview focused on his podcast and his radio broadcasting background, and the second part will feature his tent camping experiences. Skip is readily available to help others who are wanting to get into podcasting, and you can check out the website at www.happycamperradio.com and you can email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you haven’t read the other interviews, check out my interview with newly weds who chose tent camping for their honeymoon – You Did What For Your Honeymoon?!. You can also read my interview with Tom Tash of Pocket Parks and how they are taking the tent camping world by storm with their new tent-only campgrounds, Part 1 is HERE and Part 2 is HERE.
Got some feedback on this topic? Do you have a unique story that prominently features tent camping? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, send me an email or share it on social media! Happy Tent Camping!
Featured Image photo courtesy Pexels, 11/9/2016. Photo was taken from: https://pixabay.com/en/users/Pexels-2286921/