While getting to your campground may be half the fun, setting it up properly is imperative if you want the fun to continue.
Who wants to crack a cold one after a long drive, but can’t, because you have no idea where a bottle opener is? Who wants to be rooting through bins, looking for a can opener or matches?
You may have noticed I lean towards the uber-organized, anal retentive philosophy at home, (which you can see here, and here and here), so it should come as no surprise that I take that philosophy with me on the road.
Once you reach your actual destination (your campsite), there may or may not be arguing involved as your husband tries to back the Suburban and the cargo trailer into the space.
You may or may not forget which way is his left, versus your left.
You may or may not have differing interpretations of “just a little bit more” and exactly how much more that might be…
You may or may not get a little sideways with your spouse (momentarily…)
If you do, it’ll pass.
Once you are safely parked into your space, you have to survey your campsite. You can’t just start throwing stuff out of the trailer willy-nilly. Markleeville sites have a parking pad, a campfire ring, a picnic table/bench and metal box to keep food.
Yes. If you must get technical, it’s a bear box.
photo credit: dkjd from flickr.com
This is not actually a box from our campground, but it is very similar, just a bit shorter. You have to lock up your food at night to ensure that Yogi and Boo-Boo don’t come through your camp, trying to get your pic-a-nic basket.
Now before all of you camping nay-sayers freak out and say “Oh my Lord! I told you so! Camping! Never! Bears?!!! Ack!” I must say, that in all the time I’ve been camping in the area, I’ve never had a bear come to camp. I’ve never even seen a bear.
I like the bear box because those damn chipmunks, squirrels and blue jays are thieving little varmints and will stop at nothing to get your Doritos.
Anyway, before you can start unloading, you need to decide where the tents are going to go. Tents should be on a fairly flat surface, in the shade if possible, and the area should be cleared of things like sharp sticks, rocks and pine cones. (Duh.) It is perfectly acceptable (and in fact, recommended) that you choose the best spot for your tent. You are older and more susceptible to aches and pains. Kids can fall asleep anywhere, so screw ’em.
Once tent sites have been decided, let the unloading begin. This is one of those times when multiple children really works to your advantage. They can help unload the trailer and help to assemble the tents. (And? If you are an amazing parent like Handsome Hubby, you can actually make this happen in a way where the kids feel lucky to be helping you….) (I’m so jealous of that gift.)
Of course, there will always be that kid who thinks the best job for him would be to hold up this tree right here….
Devin and his friend Michael stayed in one tent. Mitchell and Conner stayed in the other.
Handsome Hubby and I (and Grant) stayed in the big tent. Lovingly nicknamed The Taj (as in Mahal) this tent was handed down to us from my parents. It is a huge, canvas, two room tent that is big enough for us to stand up in. (Because scuttling around, stooped over hurts my knees and back. )
I realized I did not get a full shot of our tent on this trip. This is it in the background from a shot taken in 2006.
We cannot sleep on the tent floor, so we have a queen size air mattress. We keep meaning to get one of those platforms that elevates the air mattress, but haven’t yet gotten around to doing so.
We don’t sleep in sleeping bags. They are not comfortable if you are over the age of 13. We make up the bed with normal sheets and bedding. We bring our pillows from home (body pillows too) and we make Grant a little nest right next to us.
I also cannot stand to be unorganized as far as clothes, sundries, towels, etc. In the “front” room of the tent I set up a table and unpack on top of that.
This was taken from the outside, looking in. (It’s a big tent.)
Once tents are up and kids have gone about their business of unpacking and setting up their sleeping bags, it’s time to set up “the kitchen”.
We do not hold cans of beans over a fire and roast hot dogs on a stick.
I have fresh brewed coffee every morning.
Yep. Coleman makes a drip coffee maker that works on a camp stove-top.
Instant coffee? Pah-leeze.
We set up a kitchen (thank you, Cabela’s) that holds our paper products, utensils, lanterns, etc.
My thought on this is that if I want it in my kitchen at home, I will probably want it while camping. I have a can opener, of course. But I also have a garlic press and a tomato shark.
I have a wine opener, but I also bring a wine stopper/vacuum pump up with me as well. Coffee doesn’t taste good out of plastic, paper or stainless steel cups, so I bring a ceramic mug. I bring a few real wine glasses, because plastic just isn’t the same.
Now don’t be silly. I’m not bringing my “good stuff” from home. That is yet one more thing that Goodwill is great for. Not only do I not want take my “good stuff” camping, I don’t want to have to go through my home goods in order to “pack up” each year. Cheapy duplicate kitchen items stay boxed up until ready to go on the trip. It makes camping prep soooooo much easier.
We have a decent set of knives and cutting boards. We have colanders and frying pans and stockpots. We have a basic compliment of spices and herbs.
We think about things like having a box of baby wipes or a bottle of Purell handy. We have paper towels and Windex. (The vinyl table covering gets icky… it is the mountains, after all). If you have it in your kitchen at home, we probably have it in our camp kitchen.
Tarps and E-Z-Ups are essential. Shade is always a good thing. A Husband who knows a bit about knots and basic engineering comes in handy, too.
Camping is about enjoying nature and spending time with family and friends. It should not be about hardship or doing without. Relax, enjoy.
On that note… I am completely at ease, knowing that there are bright, clean bathrooms throughout the campground with flush toilets, hot showers and running water. I can buy ice at the ranger station by the park entrance, I can hike to the pool and natural hot springs and, if so inclined, there are tubs where I can wash out clothes. (I have never been so inclined, by the way.)
The bottom line, if you know what you need in order to be comfortable (and bring it) camping is one of the best vacations you can take. A Sunday afternoon through Friday morning? $132… Total. Gas there and back? About $250 (We drive a Suburban and pull a trailer a total of 1,000 miles.) Food? We were going to have to buy that anyway. A 5 day, 6 night vacation for a family of 6, (plus an extra kid) for less than $400?
I dare ya.