- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 26, 2005

Who better than National Geographic to enter the wonderful world of camping, traveling and visiting faraway places? No one does it better, and whether you’re a newcomer or an old hand at tent camping or using an expensive, comfortable recreational vehicle, you should give serious thought to checking out the new “National Geographic Road Atlas — RV & Camping Edition.”

I’ve had a ball perusing this 272-page marvel that National Geographic says is the most comprehensive road atlas of its kind. I believe it.

The atlas features detailed road maps of all 50 states and Canada, profiles of 22 national parks, state and provincial park listings, descriptions of 36 popular scenic drives and more than 3,700 state-by-state RV park and campground listings provided by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.

Since I’m one of those people who’ll put 30,000 miles a year on a vehicle, driving to out-of-the-way fishing, hunting and, yes, occasional camping destinations, whenever I hear lofty claims concerning detailed maps, I immediately check them out. I want to know if the maps show backwoods roads and places of interest. In this case — since it mentioned Canadian maps — I looked for Maynooth and Whitney, two little northern Ontario towns near a lovely smallmouth bass spot known as Hay Lake.

There it was on page 241 of the atlas. It showed the I-81 crossing at Alexandria Bay, N.Y., the left turn onto Route 401 to Belleville, Ontario, and the northbound country Route 62 to Maynooth, then Route 127 to Whitney — where it’s not unusual to see a bear running across the road. Even Hay Lake was there, and we’re talking about a part of our world that is filled with lakes, ponds and rivers.

Rounding out the atlas is a mileage chart and driving time map, climate maps, and a general information page with contact information for tourism offices and border crossing regulations. The road atlas is spiral bound and protected with a durable plastic cover.

The one thing I was concerned about was National Geographic’s use of MapQuest for its road data. If it’s as quirky as some of the MapQuest driving directions I occasionally get from its Web site, watch out. You’re in for more adventures than you normally hope for.

The full-color atlas should now be available at retail bookstores and specialty outdoor retailers. It can be ordered online at www.ngmapstore.com or call 800/962-1643. The recommended retail price is $25, and it’s worth every penny.

What about novice campers? — “The Beginners Guide to Camping” is truly an information-packed 26-minute DVD that should remove any doubts you have about whether you’re able to join the millions of American tent campers. You can.

This is not for RV owners but strictly for those who intend to drive stakes into the ground to keep the tent from blowing away.

The man behind the DVD is Mark Holzman, a professional videographer and an avid tent camper for the past 25 years. He knows what newcomers need to learn and goes about it in a brisk, fun style that is easy to follow and comprehend. It even helps old hands at this type of camping.

You’ll learn how to choose a campground and a campsite, how to set up your camp, the worth of ground cloths to keep your derriere from getting wet, how to choose a sleeping bag, coolers and more. Cold weather camping, what to do if it rains, building a safe fire — it’s all there.

I did have some initial concern this was a Yuppie DVD because you see people riding horses, playing all kinds of games and flying kites but not a word about a staple of camping: fishing. Finally, toward the end, there was a glimpse of a boy with a fishing rod in hand.

“The Beginners Guide to Camping” is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and REI stores. It sells for $19.95.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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