My parents never let me join Brownies or Girl Guides when I was a kid. I felt rather deprived that I was denied that coveted brown dress with attached notebook, pencil, and tiny coin purse. In retrospect, I see that they were saving me from myself and from many weekends in the woods, embarrassing myself from camping incompetence, wilderness allergies and insect phobias.
Life has a way of biting us in the backside (like 1,000 hungry mosquitoes) by giving us exactly what we want. My kids are campers and would gladly spend the entire summer in a tent. My husband wants to live in the woods all year, and they talk me into camping each summer.
I have resigned myself to a life as a reluctant camping mom, but I have picked up some tricks to make the whole experience feel less awful. If you also consider being dragged out into the woods to be vaguely similar to kidnapping, hopefully this checklist will make you a happier camper.
There’s “Back to Nature” and then there’s just getting carried away. Don’t make the mistake of thinking how wonderful and rustic it will be to live for several days without electricity. It gets old fast and there is nothing you can do about it if you’ve set your tent up on a site that doesn’t have an electrical hook-up. So look for one that does!
I bring a coffee machine, electric griddle, electric kettle and portable barbeque. I may look like I am hosting a small appliance home party when I’m camping, but I’m grumpier than any bear you’ll find in the woods if I don’t have decent coffee. The kettle is handy for heating up wash water, the griddle makes breakfast and lunch in a snap, and the barbeque is much easier to cook on than fire and rocks. Remember to pack a long outdoor extension cord to run your travelling kitchen.
3. Power Bars
A power bar for the appliances and another for inside the tent will make sure you never have to jockey for iPhone charging space. I’m a digital mama and I have enough real hives from the allergy-inducing wilderness — I don’t need imaginary ones from being disconnected. Besides, if I keep my phone charged long enough to take lots of pictures, then I can trick myself into believing how relaxing camping is when it’s time to plan next year’s trip.
4. Second Tent
We all sleep in one large tent — the box says it holds a medium-sized village, which in camping math translates to five people. We save the second tent to hold our gear and protect it from the rain. It’s much easier to find supplies (or hide) when you can spread them out in a tent, than it is to dig through the trunk of the car. Plus that much contact with the vehicle makes it entirely too tempting to flee to the nearest place with “Resort and Spa” in the title.
5. Choose Your Site Wisely
I put more time and consideration into deciding which campsite to book than I did into getting married. (That may be where I went wrong here.) I like a site that is near the comfort station so that the kids can use the washroom without needing me as their secret service security detail, and it makes for a less-dicey sprint for my “I’ve given birth to twins” bladder during those middle-of-the-night calls of nature. I also like to have the water tap nearby because I’m like a cartoon character when I carry water for too long of a distance — the bucket is empty and my shoes soaked. I also like a lot of shade in order to keep the tent from feeling like the seventh circle of hell by midday.
6. Choose Your Date Wisely
We plan our trips for August when the mosquitoes have calmed down slightly, the evenings are cooler for sleeping, and the house has become so messy that a campsite with a dirt floor begins to look like the Ritz Carlton. We often camp at the provincial park in town because it’s a short 15-minute drive home if we forget anything or if we want to sleep at home on a stormy night.
The parks always have signs saying that you can’t bring in your own firewood due to forest-destroying caterpillars or park rangers with control issues or something. That would be fine if they stocked firewood that wasn’t gathered 20-minutes before we rolled in. New wood is bad wood. Bad wood means my kids are up hours past their expiration dates waiting for s’mores and campfire songs without swear words. So we bring newspaper and firestarter cupcakes to get those suckers going because I was never a Girl Guide and my husband was kicked out of Beavers.
8. Stretchy Pants
My husband is just so darned happy to be in the woods that he takes over doing all of the cooking and cleaning up. Each delicious meal includes at least one form of bacon -- and possibly sprinklings of Xanax in my servings because I become more relaxed with each meal. Or that could just be the feeling of my arteries clogging.
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