Camping with David Restivo

David Restivo hiking with mountains in the background

Meet David Restivo, hiker, photographer, and gelato maker! For the past 13 years, David has worked for the National Park Service, providing opportunities for visitors to connect with parks, whether it’s assisting them with planning their trip, or helping them stay connected after their visit. David is the web manager for the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science division of NPS.

Sketched illustration of an a-frame tent

Favorite memory of camping growing up?
My earliest memory of camping as a kid was in my backyard. I won a tiny A-Frame tent for selling fundraising products for 4-H. I had a blast in my "castle" with my giant D battery flashlight.

Favorite thing about camping now?
The uninterrupted time spent with family and friends, the sounds of nature, fresh air, stars in the sky at night, and cooking over an open flame.

Most memorable camping trip?
There are so many, which is a testament to this outdoor activity. I would have to say my first road trip traveling across the country, camping in multiple state and national parks, and Forest Service campgrounds. There's endless beauty on our public lands.

Sketched illustration of a leaf

Who taught you how to camp?
I didn't really camp as a kid, but frontcountry camping came naturally to me when I started camping in college. A few college friends taught me what they knew about backpacking, and we all learned from each other's successes and mishaps.

Favorite park to camp at?
Hands down, Glacier National Park. There are 13 frontcountry campgrounds to choose from, and while I'm partial to the Kintla Lake campground, I usually head for the backcountry. In the backcountry, it's hard to beat the Boulder Pass, Hole in the Wall, and Elizabeth Lake backcountry sites.

Front country or backcountry?
I focus on backcountry camping. It's an amazing experience, and you earn something new every time. You're often treated to spectacular scenery that you can't see from the comfort of your car.

Tent or RV?
Tent, but only with a cushy sleeping pad. I wouldn't mind a small vintage camper when the ground becomes too hard.

Sketched illustration of a bear

Any wildlife sightings?
Oh, yes! While backpacking in Glacier National Park, my party of 4 hiked within 0.20 miles of our campsite only to see a grizzly sow and her two cubs there. We waited there for 3 hours before the bears moved on. It was eerie setting up camp. We didn't get much sleep that night, and any sound outside put us on high alert.

Any favorite recipes?
I once made Thanksgiving dinner after hiking 12 miles in the backcountry. It hit the spot.
Here is what you will need:

  • A vacuum sealed pouch of cubed turkey
  • Instant stuffing Instant gravy
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Salt, pepper or other spice packets
  • Instant pudding of your choice for a pie filling
  • Powdered milk for the instant pudding
  • Small graham cracker pie crusts
  • Instant coffee or hot chocolate
Follow the instructions on the packages (you really only need cold or boiled water for mixing). Enjoy!

Last updated: July 7, 2022