Growing up, I used to watch Little House on the Prairie and dream of being Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was the only girl I knew who had her own horse, got to use an outhouse and spent her days fishing in creeks. She had adventure after adventure in that little house by Plum Creek and her cute little braids barely got mussed by days end. She made roughing it in the 1800s look easy. And fun.
Ahem. Have you ever BEEN camping with a tent? If you haven’t, I have news for you: Laura Ingalls Wilder and her cute little braids LIED. Roughing is not fun and it is most certainly NOT easy. In fact, it’s more work than I do at home and frankly, I’m not quite sure why people still do it since the invention of free standing houses.
This past weekend, the Hubby, two Fruit Loops and I went camping. Real live camping. In a tent. With bugs and crickets the size of a kiwi. And I used an outhouse (well, it wasn’t made out of planks over a hole in the ground but it was still a bathroom not connected to my abode). I had the pleasure of spending 72 hours living in a 20 x 20 campground space with nothing more than a tent and a picnic table. And three other people.
Needless to say, I found something out about myself this weekend: Laura Ingalls Wilder, I am not. And, while I recognize that many of my friends find sheer enjoyment from living off the land and out under the bright, starlit sky, I’m not ashamed to say that I actually don’t enjoy the experience all that much. I’m outdoorsy enough to do a triathlon in a goose poop infested lake but frankly, I don’t feel the need to prove that I’m hard core by peeing on a bush and using bark as toilet paper. Which leads me to:
5 Reasons I Hate Camping
1). Packing for Camping = Playing Camp Gear Tetris with your car.
To go tent camping, one must basically pack every single thing they own in their home and bring it with them to the campsite. You want coffee? You must bring instant coffee, a mug, a receptacle to heat hot water in, a grill or grate to place said receptacle on to heat the water, a fire source and wood. That’s six items to pack for something as necessary as a cup of coffee. Six. You want eggs and bacon for breakfast? You must pack eggs, bacon, 9 bags of ice to keep them cold for three days, a cooler, a cast iron skillet, and cooking spray (Note: you don’t have to pack a fire source and wood because you already need those for the coffee you will be making). That’s 13 items for eggs and bacon. And so it goes with every single thing you plan to do while you are out in the wilderness for three days. I would venture to guess that I brought 156 things to survive in the wild. It would have been 157 if I had actually been able to fit my kitchen sink into the car.
2). Outhouses are stressful.
Now, the place we went camping was lovely, truly. Their bathhouse facilities are stellar, clean and well maintained. However, these gorgeous oases of bathing were not connected to my tent which means that, at 4 am, I have some decisions to make. The process of crawling out of a sleeping bag, feeling around in the dark for my glasses, donning shoes and trudging up to the bathroom is one that I only want to do if absolutely necessary and not more than once in a night. So, as I lay in my sleeping bag, I’m playing the “how badly do I have to go?” game and wind up having a lengthy conversation with myself to remember to fluid restrict after 6 pm while camping. And, of course, when I finally do make the decision to use the facilities, so does everyone else in my tent. What would be a quick visit to the commode at home turns into a 45 minute odyssey complete with flashlights. Having to plan your visits to the bathroom is just stressful and another reason I’m not made to rough it.
3). Tents do not have deadbolts.
While we did have the option to rent a cabin, I opted to use our delightful LL Bean 6 person tent for our adventure. This seemed like a sensible idea in February when I made the reservations. But, as I stared up through the tent skylight while trying to fall asleep and ignoring the rocks in my back, I realized that the only thing between me, my kids and a bear was a thin sheet of nylon. One single swoop of a bear’s paw and he’d have a tasty meal of Beef a La Burke on his hands. Of course, since we were camping at Yogi Bear’s Shangri-la on the Creek, the likelihood of running into a bear that wasn’t a person in a costume was fairly low. But, I’m not going to lie: sleeping in a tent leaves you feeling very exposed to bandits, animals and The Dread Pirate Roberts. The fact that I couldn’t deadbolt us into the tent made me tense and I’d be lying if I said I slept with both eyes closed.
4). Every air mattress on the planet has a slow air leak.
I have a theory that air mattress makers purposely put teeny tiny air holes into every mattress they manufacture. Air mattress factories are undoubtedly filled with employees armed with pins who giggle all day long about the stupid schmucks who drag their products into the woods. I have yet to buy an air mattress that doesn’t have a hole in it and I’ve yet to meet someone who has purchased one that doesn’t leak. Ours was no exception this weekend. Friday night found our backsides slowly sinking toward the ground and the air leak was, in fact, confirmed when Hubby got up to use the stressful outhouse and I abruptly free fell 6 inches to the ground in a nanosecond. Of course, this was at 2 am and I defy you to construct a duct tape solution at that hour. Even after he spent an hour looking at the mattress in the daylight, Hubby never could find the source leading to another night of stellar sleep. I know I heard the belly laughter of some air mattress manufacturer in the distance….
5). Camping = Folding and Unfolding and Folding and Unfolding….
When you go tent camping, you fold up your tent to unfold it at your campsite. Then, you fold it up to take it home only to unfold it to air the insidious campfire smell out of it. And then you fold it up again to store it until the next time you suffer a momentary break with reality and decide to go camping again. You also do this with your sleeping bags, leaky air mattresses, blankets, table cloths, towels and clothing. The amount of folding and refolding that happens in the course of a camping weekend is just downright ridiculous. I’d estimate that Hubby and I spent a total of two full hours this weekend just folding and unfolding, packing and unpacking. I can do that in my laundry room on any given day and the risk of bugs, poison ivy and bears is minimal.
Now, it must be said, that I do enjoy the escape that camping provides. We spent the weekend not only as a family but also with eleven other families we very much enjoy and, who, to their credit, didn’t laugh too hard at us as they peered out the windows of their tricked out, Shangri-las on wheels. As we adults sat around the campfire and the children ran amuck around the campgrounds, the feeling of community abounded and the sense that we’d gotten back to basics was in the air (so was a ton of campfire smoke but I digress…). The kids checked in when they were hungry and the adults knocked on each other’s doors to borrow mustard or a bottle opener, much like the bygone days we grew up in. There was much face to face conversation, lots of laughter and bonds renewed between friends. And, truth be told, a lot of beer.
And, so, as I sit here typing with a view of our tent airing out in my backyard, I’m already planning our next camping trip. In a cabin, preferably with Marriott in the title…..