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Kickin’ Back/Kelly Fosness

Making do at the camp

June 9, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

I like to think I'm a make-do kind of gal - carving utensils out of sticks when the forks and knives get left behind and tearing out blank sheets of stationary from my camp log when the paper plates run out.

I tend to use whatever I've got on hand and so far it's a method that's proven rather successful no matter how silly I might look.

"Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick," I can hear Mom saying.

Last weekend at Camp Kukamonga in Thayers Lake, I came up with a solution to our no-running-water situation. Unlike myself, who doesn't mind skipping a couple shampoos now and then, I had a friend visiting from the Windy City and thought it was something he might not be able to go without.

While perusing the camping gear aisle in search of those mesh pouches that hang inside my Coleman lantern, I stumbled upon a portable shower bag. Why didn't I think of this before?

Packaged in a green cardboard box about the size of a piece of Texas toast, the outside informed me that it "uses solar energy to heat water for all your washing needs."

What a handy little sac it appeared to be as I considered my options.

You see, washing dishes involves heating water in a tin basin over the wood stove before you can even think about drizzling in your dish soap. Not to mention the creek in the yard is a tad on the cold side for a bath.

According to the 5-gallon "camping shower," all you have to do is let it sit in the sun.

Sounds easy enough right?

I tossed the box in my shopping cart, excited about a newfound luxury. I knew this was going to be the "it" thing at Camp Kukamonga.

Made out of a durable rubber material, black on one side and translucent on the other, the bag did not require batteries, only direct sun for about three to four hours for a guaranteed warm shower. It came with a nylon rope for hanging and I found the perfect spot near our bonfire pit where a tall maple tree lent its sturdy branches.

Aside from the simplicity of it all, filling the bag was another story. Because the valve was on the side of the sac, water had to be poured in, not dunked under water. In that case, I pulled out the 5-gallon beverage cooler, dipped that in the creek and used the spout to hit my target. To be on the safe side, I twisted the nozzle to test the water pressure. While it wasn't like your normal shower head, it had a pretty steady sprinkle.

Dragging the picnic table into the sun, I basked the black water balloon in its rays - or what little rays there were - and took a seat by the fire.

I had high hopes for my solar sac, yet the sun failed to do its part. The shower bag sat on the picnic table in the shade for the better part of the weekend. My friend had to resort to the old-fashioned shower in a bucket method, which surprisingly enough, worked out just fine.

As for my sac, I'm thinking it will be an easy transport when my friend Jen and I bike to High Rock in Keweenaw County for a camping trip on the weekend near the Fourth of July. Guaranteed there's going to be some sun.

Kelly Fosness can be reached at



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