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photo courtesy Resch Center Complex

We’re well into 2019 now, and if you haven’t noticed, various camping and boating shows are starting to happen. Have you ever attended one? Maybe you think it’s just a glorified sales floor, stacked with brand new campers priced beyond your means, and in some senses this isn’t far from the truth. But there is a lot more to these shows than just buying and selling new campers. What about the rest of the vendors there? You might find some hidden gems at these shows, and you might make a big score like what I found when The Tenting Life exhibited at this year’s Green Bay RV and Camping Show.

You Went To A Camping Show?

You bet we did! We went for a variety of reasons, but the main one was to break through the entrenched idea that camping shows are only for motorhomes, travel trailers and fifth wheels. While we were at this 4 day show, we had several people tell us, in somewhat hushed tones no less, that they were really happy to see us. It was like we were the wolves in sheep’s clothing but no one had told the shepherd. It made us feel special, like we were in a special club.  And plenty of people let us know that they used to tent camp, but had since “graduated” to a trailer or motorhome.  They had fond memories of tent camping, though.

Thumbs up, smiles, waves and great conversations were had all 4 days of the show. Of course, it helped that we also had a number of really great giveaway items to entice people to stop by. Let me say a word about these items in case you weren’t able to be at the show.

Great Giveaway Items

Probably the biggest hit of the show was a really small item. We had a Baby Bear Bear Bowl, courtesy of Bear Minimum. Actually, we had two of them, one folded up and one unfolded, ready to use. We saw a LOT of people looking hard at the Bear Bowl, trying to figure out what it was. A few people recognized it from their appearance on Shark Tank last October, but most were curious what it was. Many didn’t believe that it could do what we knew it could do, and even one fellow was adamant that it wasn’t possible. I told him to look on YouTube as there were all sorts of videos on the Bear Bowl and how it worked, so I hope he did that. And I hope that he then purchased one for himself, as I think he would be very happy to own one. So we were giving away two of the Baby Bear sized Bear Bowls. Thank you, Bear Minimum!

The next item that more people seemed familiar with were the inflatable, rechargeable, solar-powered lanterns from our friends at LuminAID. We had two of these neat items as well, a smaller one that would stay lit for 24 hours, and a larger one with a solar panel large enough to recharge a cell phone or tablet. I personally don’t own one (yet) so I was a little jealous that someone would be getting one before I would. But, not to worry, I should be getting one this Spring to do a product review for all of you, so be on the lookout for that later this year. Thank you, LuminAID!

The third item that we were giving away is one of my absolute favorite items, and something that I think every camper needs to have at least two of (and probably more). Rome Industries provided us with not one, not two, but THREE square pie irons. Not only that, but they provided a handy snap-on cover for each one as well to keep the soot from being wiped all over your gear. And, as an extra special item, they also threw in one of their new handy gadgets for the pie iron: a pie iron stand! One lucky winner will get this with their pie iron. Thank you, Rome Industries!

Lastly, as the owner of this blog, as well as being an author, I have been working on a new recipe book all about cooking in tin foil over the fire. This title is nearly done, and I thought I would give away a few paperback copies of this book when it’s all finished. So, six other people will win signed copies from the very first batch of books printed of my new recipe book, Tin Foil Recipes.

photo courtesy The Tenting Life

Okay, But You Said You Found A Hidden Gem?

That’s right, I did. But I can’t take credit for finding it. That honor belongs to my nephew who was visiting the show on Saturday. As they were looking around at all of the different vendors, he came across a booth that had some small heat packs that a woman was selling. They were really nice and you just squeezed a “button” inside the pack to activate it. It would get hot VERY quickly and retain that heat for at least 30 minutes, longer if wrapped in a towel. Okay, so far, not very impressive, right? Here’s the cool factor: you can boil them for a few minutes to “reset” them, and then you can use them again. Yes, REUSABLE heating packs! This was amazing to me, as I’ve never seen them before. Hand warmers are really nice, but are a “one-and-done” product. These little beauties could be reused indefinitely, and they can double as cold packs as well.

I was seriously jazzed about this great little product, and I’m hopeful that I can score some of these for a product review for all of you. They have several different sizes as well, so you could put one inside your pillowcase wrapped in a towel for a warm pillow on a cold night, use them to heat up your sleeping bag, or just generally keep warm when you need it. This is something I was not expecting, and if I wasn’t there I would never have known about them.

The BIG Score

Okay, so I was leaving the biggest thing for last (doesn’t everyone do that?). Being in the Midwest part of the country, we don’t always hear about the latest and greatest things that come along for camping, or anything else for that matter. Even clothing trends are usually months in getting to us in the middle. So it is with a tent company that decided to exhibit at this year’s show. The company is called Tentsile, and they make a really cool tent that is strapped to three trees and is suspended above the ground! Think a hammock, but much larger. Ask anyone on the West coast about Tentsile and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about, but not so much in the heartland of the country. So, they are in the middle of pushing the brand eastward, which brought them to the same show I was at.

I had the chance to hang out with them for a while and find out what sort of responses they were getting from us midwesterners. Everyone was interested, and kids of course loved the idea. They even had one setup on a special frame and you could crawl inside to get the feel of it. So after chatting with them for a while (and they were happy to see another tent camping vendor there as well in The Tenting Life), it came around to product reviews. BOOM! They let me know they would have no problem sending me one of their tents! So, I won’t say any more, but look them up, and then be on the lookout for at least one post this summer about our trial of the Tentsile tent. I’ll also be looking to do some videos with it, so our YouTube channel will probably kick off this Spring at some point as well.

What Else Is There?

The rest of the show had many campgrounds trying to entice people to check them out. Our state parks were duly represented as well, giving out information and allowing people to buy entrance stickers. And a few other odds and ends rounded out the full offerings for this show. In addition, several people gave different talks throughout the 4-day event, including yours truly. I had the opportunity to give five separate talks on three separate days during the show, and those short presentations will definitely show up on the blog as fleshed out posts.

photo courtesy The Tenting Life

Wrap Up

So, hopefully you can see that there are a number of different reasons to come to a camping show like what we went to. Yes, the motorhomes and travel trailers are cool to look at, but it’s more than that. It’s meeting new people, sometimes seeing old friends, learning new techniques and tips, and maybe finding the hidden gem or scoring that cool item that you found for the first time. This definitely won’t be our last experience at a camping show, and I’ll let you all know in advance the next time we’ll be out “in the field” so we can meet you

Got some feedback on this topic? 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 Tentsile tents.

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