Camping with Nathan King

Nathan King camping in a tent with a full supply of food
Nathan King on Mount Kilimanjaro, 2008.

Meet Nathan King, a camper extraordinaire! He's been a park ranger at Glacier National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Pipestone National Monument, Fort Larned National Historic Site, and the National Mall and Memorial Parks. His favorite thing about working for the National Park Service is sharing special places with our visitors. Now, Nathan is a Digital Communications Specialist for the National Capital Region. When he isn't working, you might find Nathan swimming, playing on the computer, or visiting a national park!

Last camping trip?
My most recent national park camping trip was to Shenandoah National Park at the Big Meadows campground. It's not far from Washington, DC, and it's much cooler on the mountain than it is in the city. The trip was memorable because it stormed during the night, and there were some dramatic views from the overlooks in the morning after the rain as the clouds clung to the mountains.

Favorite memory of camping growing up?
While canoeing in Wisconsin, my brother and grandfather unexpectedly flipped their canoe, tumbling into the Crystal River. Though my brother's new school shoes were saved, my grandfather's Rockports were lost. The pitiful image of him walking barefoot into a shoe store still makes me laugh, though it wasn't terribly funny at the time.
Sketched illustration of three pine trees
Most memorable camping trip ?
Camping six nights on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania between 9,000 and 15,000 feet. The weird thing was that at those altitudes, your heart beats really fast even when you are resting. One of those nights wasn't spent sleeping but hiking from the last camp to the summit in the dark, starting at midnight. It doesn't get much more adventurous or exhausting than that!

Who taught you how to camp?
I went camping with my family a lot when I was a kid, but I would say my camping skills were developed through Boy Scouts. I even have the camping merit badge!

What makes the perfect camping experience?
Ideally I would get to experience something new or unexpected. One camping trip in Shenandoah, I was up early and got to watch a whole bunch of hummingbirds drinking from milkweed flowers while I sipped my coffee. Little moments like that make it special.

Front country or backcountry?
I like the comforts of frontcountry camping, but I really prefer backcountry camping when I can do it. I really like how backcountry camping gives an opportunity for solitude, and to have almost exclusive access to remote places. Planning for a backpacking trip is also a greater mental challenge that adds to my enjoyment.
Sketched illustration of a flower
Who would you invite on your dream camping trip?
If it were possible, I would have liked to go camping with Theodore Roosevelt. We could look for birds together and go on adventures. I also think he would wear me out entirely.

Most frivolous or "must have" item you bring?
I always have to bring a camp stove and a small kettle so I can make coffee in the morning. Without that, camping with me wouldn't be much fun.

Favorite camping recipes?
I always like to prepare meals in foil, which go by many colloquial names across the country. The end result is sort of like stew without the broth, a really hearty meal that always tastes better after a day spent in the outdoors.

Any advice for a novice camper?
Don't bring any tools that only do one job. For example, pillows are bulky. You can save a lot of space by stuffing an empty pillowcase with your extra clothes. It doubles as a laundry bag.

Last updated: July 7, 2022