Camping raises images of sleeping on rocks; clothes and sleeping bags full of dirt; hot, uncomfortable days and soggy nights; and hotdogs, hotdogs, and more hotdogs, as the never-ending days roll on.
In other words, for some of us, camping does not conjure up warm and cozy images. Instead, we see nothing but dirt, inconvenience, and missing the comforts of home.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however.
Out of necessity (I married a camper) I have learned that camping can be quite a comfortable – and even clean and tidy – event. You just need to convince your loved one to invest in some camping luxuries, or necessities, as I call them.
First, invest in a quality tent that is big enough to have bags and bedding in without making you feel claustrophobic. Even better is one you can stand upright in. When we moved from a tiny pup tent (which I had to scrunch up into something that resembled a contortionist getting into a square box just to get dressed in) to a tent I could stand up in, I felt like I could finally handle camping.
Surprisingly, a tent of this size was only $90.00 at our local Wal-Mart and came complete with rain flap, windows, and even a clothes line. If you have more than $90.00 to invest, you can get a tent that resembles a small palace. Portable, of course.
Second, invest in tarp. Lots of tarp. And rope. Even with your big-enough-to-stand-in-tent, one can only stay in a tent for so long when it rains. Not to mention, you still have to cook meals.
If you have tarp and a rope, you can rig up a covered spot outdoors that you and your family can set up chairs, stay warm around a camp fire, and cook meals under so you don’t have to eat cold hot dogs.
Even better than the tarp, if you can afford it, are portable shelters that set up much like a tent and are enclosed in mesh. These are much easier to set up than tarp and are also easier to fold away neatly. These usually run in the $100-$200 price range.
Buy an air mattress. There is no need to attempt to prove yourself a hero and sleep on the ground. We have a self-inflating mattress that we found at Cabela’s, and though it looks thin it is actually a very comfortable mattress.
The key, of course, to your air mattress is having the ability to inflate it. There is nothing worse than getting to your camp site and realizing you have a state-of-the-art air mattress and no way to blow it up.
Instead of sleeping bags, which I, again, feel claustrophobic in, I just bring regular bedding. Having an air mattress makes this possible, and having sheets to crawl into at night somehow makes camping not feel so primitive to me.
Invest in a camp stove. Again, this is a non-essential item for making camping an easier experience. Usually run on propane tanks, these stoves come in ranges of the one-burner style that sets on a picnic table to an actual portable camp stove, complete with “stove top” and oven. Of course, if you buy a camp stove then there will be no excuses for you to get out of baking elaborate meals. You are, after all, on vacation.
If you want to accessorize the necessities you have bought, you also have these options:
A cooking station. This gives you “counter space” while you make your meals.And don’t forget your “camp cupboard” as well, which keeps you from having to unpack boxes of food every time you cook. (It’s wise to put this in your vehicle at night, however, to keep raccoons and bears away from your food.)
The ultimate dream (I’m still holding out for mine) is a camp kitchen. This includes everything from a place to set your camp stove and cupboard, and some even come with sink capabilities that use a certain type of water jug so that you can wash dishes and utensils. Of course, having this entire outfit set up in an enclosure is ideal.
There are tent accessories that you can buy such as a fan, lanterns, and even a carpet liner that catches dirt, which you can then shake out when packing up instead of trying to get the floor of your tent clean.
If your loved one insists on camping at a campground where there are no toilets or showers, there are even porta-toilets and, yes, showers that you can invest in, so that you don’t have to go without these comforts.
Now that you have your camping gear, here are some practical suggestions for making the entire experience a smooth-running ordeal:
Pack neatly. Label everything. Give everything a place and a purpose. If you just throw your condiments in a cooler and mix your camp plates with your underwear, it becomes confusing and frustrating once you arrive at the camp site. The more organized you pack up and the more organized you stay while camping, the easier it is to make the entire experience enjoyable.
Don’t forget things like bug repellent, tikki torches, lanterns, flashlights, first aid kits, and camping chairs. Also pack up a couple of sharp knives, some scissors, dish soap, aluminum foil, and Ziplock bags and storage containers.
Pack your toiletries in smaller travel containers and then put those in Ziplock bags. Have a bag that can be easily cleaned, designated specifically for the shower area; campground bathrooms/showers are usually not the cleanest facilities in the world.
If you are really obsessive-compulsive like I am, you’ll want some disposable rubber gloves and Lysol spray to wipe down your shower stall before you use it. Oh, and shower shoes are a must!
Campground showers usually do not have soap in them, so bring antibacterial soap with you to the bathroom or keep it at your site to wash when you get back.
Hammocks are fun to bring camping, and there is usually no lack of trees in which to hang one.
Lastly, bring a good attitude. I have found that if I went into the camping trip dreading it and thinking I was going to hate it, I inevitably did. However, when I began telling myself that I was taking control of the situation and doing all I could to make it an enjoyable experience and I was going to have fun, well guess what? I did have fun! Now I’m as much of a camping enthusiast as my husband, much to his delight.
Pic of the Day: Ramen Cat