I often joke that my mother-in-law’s idea of “roughing it” is the Holiday Inn – and maybe not having a blow dryer for her hair. Certainly if she doesn’t have access to immediate hot water at the turn of a tap, she’s hugely inconvenienced and is roughing it. For others, “roughing it” means having scarce shelter, a sleeping bag on the ground and cooking over a campfire. Such a situation would also include “bird baths” in creeks or rivers and having only the hot water you can heat up in whatever pot you have over your cook fire in camp. The two extremes left me wondering: how do you define “camping”? At what point does it stop being pleasurable and start being uncomfortable?
Obviously the answer is different for everyone. While I HAVE slept on the cold wet ground in a sleeping bag not rated for the temperatures experienced, I’ve also “camped” in a Recreational Vehicle (motor home) at scuba diving sites. I’ve camped in locations where everything I had was carried in on my back and I’ve camped in areas where I drove up to the campsite and opened up the hatch on my Jeep to unload gear. I’ve camped in sites where there were bathroom and shower facilities nearby and in sites where there were porta-johns. I’ve camped in areas where the convenience store was a ½ mile walk away and in areas where the nearest convenience store was a half hour drive away.
The conclusion I’ve come to, only for myself (obviously) is that I’m not “camping” unless I’m in a tent. Whether I walk or drive to my campsite, to me it’s just not camping unless I pitch a tent. Of course, even “tent” can mean different things to different people. In my book having a tent means having some type of shelter material that you have strung up to keep rain off you when you sleep. “Tent” can include a “hooch” made from a poncho or tarp, a two-piece surplus tent such as the Army used to use (and some parts of it still do), an actual commercial tent with shock-corded poles and stakes, etc. Oddly, as much as I enjoy my comfort in my, ah, more mature years, I fondly remember backpacking. I remember carrying it all on my back, knowing full well that I’d be slightly hungry for most of the weekend; knowing that I’d be sleeping on whatever ground I could find that was least uncomfortable (not most comfortable, and there is a difference); knowing that I might not be as warm at night as I’d LIKE to be, but I wouldn’t be dangerously cold either. What I also knew was that I’d feel closer to nature than I normally felt and I’d be enjoying some scenery I didn’t normally get to enjoy. It was, after all, CAMPING.
As a family man, “Camping” will always mean, minimally, a fair size tent in places we can drive up to the campsite, and have inflatable air mattresses to put under our sleeping bags. It usually means a cooler, several 5-gallon water jugs, folding chairs and more. My family has several fair sized tents to include a Coleman dome tent that’s designed to sleep three (but is really only comfortable for two unless you like bumping into each other all night), a Greatlands 7-person dome tent (that really only fits three if you’re using air mattresses), and a generic brand (bought at Woolworth’s years ago) cabin tent that was designed to sleep eight but comfortable fits four air mattresses side by side.
Depending on how much of my family is going on the camping trip, there may be a “His” and a “Hers” tent. Now that two of my older children are married, there may be tents for different couples. As long as there are still TENTS being used to house us at night, I still feel like I’m camping. Recently there has been a different discussion though and I find my outlook being challenged.
Some friends of ours purchased a pull-behind “camping” trailer. Theirs is 28 feet long and sleeps six. It has a galley and a head (to include a shower), heating and air-conditioning. While it doesn’t have a television that’s about all that separates it from being a mobile hotel room that was very space-efficient in its design. And the debate begins…
While there is a part of me that certainly would enjoy such comforts while I’m “camping”, I have to question whether the use of a trailer or motor home IS camping. I mean, sure you pull up to a campsite and you ARE parked someplace in “the wilderness” (depending on your camp location). But then, if it’s available, you hook up to water and electric. You enjoy cooking WITHOUT a fire if you want; you take items out of your refrigerator (as compared to a cooler); your bed is a mattress with linens and blankets. I’m just not sure I can call this CAMPING.
So, I thought I’d present the discussion and ask you, our readers, what your thoughts are? What are YOUR requirements for “camping”?
Should camping include only those places you go to sleep “under the stars” or using only material as your shelter? (tents)
Does camping include those places you walk to? Drive to?
Is it still camping if you use a pull behind trailer? What if it’s a pop-up as compared to a regular pull behind?
If you’re actually driving a motor home up to a campsite, is it still camping?
I look forward to your thoughts and observations. For now… for my family… camping will include the use of tents, primarily at campsites we can drive up and in to. In the near future? Who knows? If my wife gets her way I think camping will include a pull-behind trailer. On the future will tell.
No matter what your definition of camping is though, do it safely and enjoy it thoroughly. The beauty of nature is something we should never take for granted and we should take every opportunity to enjoy.
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