Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Truth About Camping

For the past three nights, I have slept in an actual bed.  This sounds like a small feat given the fact that probably 99% of my readers sleep in a bed every night (Howard represents the 1% because of his strange inclination to sleep in a hammock a few nights a week); but, I assure you, after two weeks of camping, it feels like quite a luxury...

Which brings me to my real topic today: The TRUTH about Camping... 

Based on some of your comments on my recent posts, I feel I owe it to the female population to clear up a few myths about spending the night "under the stars."  Before I begin, you should know that I am BY NO MEANS an expert in this field.  By nature, I am NOT an outdoorsy girl.  (I once confessed to a group of friends that I don't even really like hiking -what's the point, really?-  for which I was immediately shunned with horror.)   Furthermore, Jeff calls me a "hotel snob" because I don't even like to stay in places that have drive-up access (unsafe), out-dated decor (tacky), or those stiff, patterned comforters hotels can't seem to stay away from (disgusting - they don't wash those things you know!). 

BUT, as fate would have it, I married into a love for the great outdoors.  And so, just as he compromises with the occassional stop at an outlet mall or modern town center, I am learning to camp.  And, honestly, I'm enjoying it.

So, with the camping leg of this trip under my belt, let's have at it:

Myth: Camping is dirty and smelly.

Truth: I will admit, I did not feel like a beauty queen on this trip (camping/hotel/ever).  There is something about being on the road - much less sleeping in the natural elements - that makes your eyes a little puffier and your hair a little more unruly.  I'm not going to lie to you.  BUT, I did take a shower every single day of our camping adventure.  Both of the campgrounds we stayed in (in Yellowstone and Glacier) had nice public bathrooms with a "locker room" feeling.  Although at Yellowstone you had to pay for them ($2 for 6 minutes), the showers were relatively clean (I still wore flipflops), and the water was hot.  This was always a very popular place to hang out, as it seems I wasn't the only girl at the sites that preferred the "unsmelly" version of camping.

I had decided before we left that I wasn't going to obsess over my appearance while I was gone... I took a few nice outfits, basic make-up, and a straightening iron for special occassions.  I did NOT take a blow-dryer, simply out of principle.  (I know this doesn't make sense, since I DID take a straightener... My rationale is that I would only use it when we were staying in hotels or at friends' houses and a blow-dryer would be available; but, I wouldn't be tempted to "primp" too much at other times.)  That said, there were PLENTY of women plugging in blow-dryers, curling irons, electric toothbrushes, etc. every morning.  Likewise, when I brushed my cheeks with a little bronzer and sprayed "curl spray" in my hair before the mirror, NO ONE looked at me like I was out of place.  Although I didn't feel like a super-model, I didn't feel hideous either.  I felt like myself, which is good enough. :)

Both of our sites also provided coin laundry facilities for their guests.  While I chose not to take advantage of these, they seemed convenient enough.  That said, perhaps I should have reconsidered since the smelliest part of our trip so far has been carrying our giant dirty-clothes hamper in the hot baking car from state to state. ;)  (If you are one on the houses on scheduled on our return trip... Consider this your warning!)

*I should give the disclaimer that not ALL campsites are like ours.  At both of the national parks there are "Primitive Sites" where it's just you and the woods.  We stayed away from these sites like the plague... I figure if that's what Jeff wanted he should have married someone else - end of story. :)  Either way, just be advised that with the right research and planning you should be able to find a site that is perfect for your comfort level whether that is KOA resort, basic public site, or more rustic.*

Myth: To camp, you must be willing to sleep on the ground, eat only granola and beef jerky, and disconnect from all things modern.

Truth: We took an eight person tent for just the two of us.  In it, we had room for a queen sized, double layer air-mattress with sheets, a foldable night stand, all of our luggage, and two camping chairs.  There was plenty of room for standing, walking-around, even doing cartwheels if I'd felt so inclined... And, even during a thunder storm, we sat safely and cozily inside it playing Boggle and Mancala. (I do strongly recommend that you choose one campsite and stay there for a few nights... It was very nice to have a kind-of "home-base" and only have to set all this up once - although the set-up was relatively simple.

In the mornings, we drank french-pressed Starbucks coffee; and, for dinner, we ate everything from hot-dogs and chili (my favorite meal) to filet mignon and asparagus.  We did NOT go hungry or stoop to the level of beef jerky and Ramen. 

And, from our campsites, we had perfect cell-phone service and access to the internet; but also, the complete freedom to turn those items off and feel completely serene in the quiet nature around us. (Are you convinced yet?!?)

*PLEASE NOTE: While my experience was the perfect balance of nature and convenience... Jeff is mostly responsible for it. He knows what he is doing.  He has excellent equiptment and pretty much does everything while I organize the car and hand him things as he needs them.  Camping like this DEFINITELY has its advantages, but it does take some planning ahead of time.  I'm not sure how this would go for two novices.

Here are a few MUST HAVES:

  • 20 degree (or below) sleeping bags... It gets VERY COLD at night no matter how warm it is during the day... We learned this hard way and had to make a purchase on Day 2.

  • Headlamps, lanterns, etc. (Most nights, it stayed light until after 10PM, BUT when it gets dark, it gets DARK.)

  • A propane stove and basic dishes.  (You can buy all of this at Wal-Mart.)

  • A good cooler and plenty of access to ice.

Myth: Camping is scary.

Truth: Well, we did have Bear Spray.  I may as well just remind you of that first; there is just no getting around it.  We could - at any given point - have been attacked by bears.  That said, when we checked out the statistics on Google the other day, we found out that the likelihood of being killed in a bear related accident is approximately 1 in 9.2 million.  It seems the National Parks use the fear factor to their advantage in keeping people from leaving trash and food out at night.  I'm ok with that. 

Other than the threat of bears and other wildlife, I felt 100% safe at night.  It helped that I had Jeff beside me (who made quite a spectacle out of sleeping next to his pocket-knife); but honestly, most of the noises etc. that I heard were innocent bullfrogs, birds, or the people at the site next door.  Besides, most days we had played so hard and were so exhausted, that we fell asleep almost instantly after zipping up our sleeping bags. 

To be perfectly honest, staying in a 2-star hotel in New York City is much scarier!!

Ok... hope I haven't bored you with my new knowledge!! PLEASE feel free to leave additional questions in the comment section... I'm planning to do a much more detailed account of our trip complete with our route, tips, packing lists, etc. on a separate blog page once we return in case anyone wants to re-create it for themselves. In the meantime, update tomorrow on Vancouver & Seattle!

Until then,


  1. I love the last picture of you camping with your laptop there! lol

  2. I have not been camping in years! I love the laptop photo too...Being able to bring my online friends along would be fun but distracting...

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed camping! I love the outdoors and usually head for the "primitive" spots. It's definitely not as bad as people make it out to be.

  4. Now THAT kind of camping I could probably handle :) I had never considered purchasing a hotel room sized tent for 2! I think I actually tend to get a bit claustrophobic in the 2 man tents.

  5. I can't think of what made me laugh more, the idea of a foldable nightstand or the fact that you Googled the likelihood of bear attacks. While I certainly wish you no harm, the idea that if you guys got lost and they checked your internet history to find you and came across that Google search...this is where my mind goes.

  6. E,loved your camping stories!!!!Love you, Aunt D

  7. I love this post! We tried Slough Creek, one of those primitive campgrounds in Yellowstone. All I can say is "where's your deodorant?!" No running water, showers or flush toilets. I'm with you- most of the campgrounds are really nice. But there needs to be a line between camping comfortably and being a part of nature! Enjoy your weekend!


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