That’s the strange thing about “roughin’ it” the way we do. It’s not like other sports and hobbies- puzzles, you start with one that has 24 pieces and work your way up to a 1000 piece puzzle; skiing you get easy-to-turn boots and skis until you’re ready for the longer skis and tighter, harder to flex boots; bicycling you start on a tricycle and then have a two-wheeler with training wheels and only take the training wheels off when you’re ready. Once upon a time, the group was all tents. Next, folks moved to pop-ups or small travel trailers and many have now moved up to elaborate 5th wheel toy haulers with outdoor kitchens and lots of extras.
Our story is no different from this trend. My husband and I started camping while sharing a site with another couple in 2005 BK (BK=Before Kids.) This couple and we would carefully arrange two vehicles to hold coolers of food, mass quantities of beer, clothing, tents, eating utensils, grills, stove, griddles, canopies, air beds, sleeping bags, tarps, chairs, towels, toiletries, kites, hammocks, toys, stereo, flashlights, lanterns, and more; hopefully leaving enough room for the humans.
Upon arriving at the site, we’d have to start using our noggins to set up the site considering factors like razor-shaped rocks underneath the tent, hills that would cause the blood to rush to your head while sleeping, flow of water from the spigot we’d be using for washing dishes, etc.
At the end of the weekend, we’d pack up everything now having to factor in a lot less beer but a tent that was at the very least damp from morning dew. All from under the fog of a weekend spent in over-consumption of not so digestive-friendly food and obscene amounts of alcohol. It was no easy feat, and certainly not for the weak of heart or mind.
Within our group, we were fortunate to have expert, long-time, frequent campers who could lend us a hand or advise us as long as they weren’t too busy pressing the button for their pneumatic camper-levellers or microwaving popcorn.
“We’re always gonna be tough and always stay tenters,” I told my husband.
By the end of the 2005 BK season, we had become experts at tenting. Our packing was optimized for the BK camping lifestyle, which involved mostly lying around all day waiting for night to fall when the campfire, cards, dice, and mixed drinks would come out. Our camping equipment came to include a portable refrigerator, blender, tiki torches, and a small flock of flamingoes (including the now infamous Kiki and Ethel.) BK camping nights were long but mornings came early when the sun, immediately upon its rising, would turn a comfy, airy tent into an oven holding the breath of hell’s inferno. Naps were imperative, but could only be accomplished on cloudy days or in a lawn chair outside the tent. In a word, it was a blast.
The next season brought change. It would be the last BK season for our site-mates. I guess BK camping had already ended for the wife. Now experts at tenting, the couple purchased their first camper. Of course, all they wanted was “to be off the ground and have a potty,” and thus purchased a modest travel-trailer. No more tetris-like car packing or post-ground-slope-analyis tent-pitching. Of course it was quickly time to move up to the next camper to make sure they used even less of that skill-set. No longer satisfied off-ground and with potty, they now camp in a model with a huge slide-out and a separate wing for their children’s bedrooms.
Sure, early in the morning, as the heat drove my husband and I from our tent while they snoozed comfortably; and sometimes in the middle of an exhausting afternoon where they were so refreshed they didn’t need their camper’s air conditioning to take a nap; we did feel a little jealous. But we were still new and not ready to stop using all we’d learned.
For my husband and I, the last BK season was 2009. In 2010, a tough work schedule and a 6-month old limited our camping to a couple of tent trips and a few weekends sharing my parents’ camper. Then, the perfect motorhome showed up on Craigslist just before Memorial Day 2011. Sure, it’s old enough to drink but it didn’t require a tow vehicle and the mauve/smokey blue interior grows on you. It was everything we needed- we’d be off the ground and we’d have a potty. More importantly, I could reserve my tenting expertise for other beginners that join us. We bought it.
Two seasons in, it’s working out okay. Of course, we’re starting to see where a slide would be convenient. And we would like to think less about pulling that awning out, and a backup camera would let us stop using what we learned about backing into a site…