As I’ve said before, I grew up in a family who’s idea of roughing it was a hotel without an indoor pool.
Nature and I have only really recently became BFFs. I always liked the IDEA of being outdoorsy, but not the reality. While I’ll never lose my enjoyment of posh penthouse hotel rooms overlooking a sprawling downtown city center, I have also come to love being in the middle of nowhere as well. Here are my tips for those of you who relate to the meme above but also secretly want to become a badass woodsy nature princess.
1. GET A GOOD TENT. Even if you ignore everything else I say, DON’T CHEAP OUT. Every time we are able to set up our 200$ REI tent in less than 5 minutes and watch other people struggle for over an hour, I thank my husband for not listening to me when I said “dude, why don’t you get that 40$ one that’s the same size?”. If you don’t want to commit, you can rent a nice one from REI. If you still don’t want to commit, borrow a crappy one from someone for your next trip and I guarantee you’ll be sold.
One of the telling things about how outdoorsy I am is that my best tent picture is actually from my backyard…
2. Double thick air mattresses. People make fun of mine, and I’m certainly not at the rugged “backpack only hike in hike out” level, but it beats the hell out of sleeping on the ground. PRO TIP: get something like this so that you’re not screwed if you end up somewhere without power.
3. Bring so many layers if it’s cold. My first time in the winter, I just couldn’t get warm and I think I had on every article of clothing I brought simultaneously. Conversely, in the summer, you’ll need WAYYY less than you think. Bring a couple swim suits, a few super comfy things to wear, PJs, and you’re pretty much set for a week.
4. Hammock. I get tired of sitting in camping chairs after a while and it’s nice to have somewhere to recline. I just bought a new one that has mosquito netting and while I can’t vouch for that specific one yet, that’s probably where you’ll find me on every camping trip for every moment until forever.
5. TP. Even for improved camping with bathrooms. Sometimes you don’t want to walk that far and the woods are closer. Sometimes they’re out. Sometimes you need something absorbent for a non-bodily waste related reason. There’s no reason not to have a spare roll of TP in your car.
You see flowers, I see a nice field to pee in when that sun goes down… as long as I have my TP…
6. Improved camping. Spend the extra money, it’s worth it. Access to showers (even if they’re gross) and being able to plug stuff into charge if needed is great and not usually much more expensive – though they usually fill up quicker. PRO TIP: if you do find yourself on the primitive side of things and there are improved sites in the area, asking one of the campers there all nice like will usually net you use of their power to charge your phone, or the combination to the showers.
7. Here’s the order to unload the car: Tent, pump up and place mattress in tent, make the bed, THEN everything else. It doesn’t work the other way if you have a tiny one. 🙂
8. The no-PTO-mini-vacay: go out Friday night (with enough time to set up before dark) and come back Sunday morning. This is better than the “go to the woods for one night to get drunk and eat hot dogs” trip, you get a full day and night in nature. You don’t get the three day effect, but this way you don’t have to take time off work and you also get almost a full Sunday at home to relax and unpack.
No matter how long you get to have this as your view, it’s soul-refreshing. But I do recommend 3 days.
9. The three day camping effect. However, if you can swing it, something magical happens on that third day. You feel lighter, unburdened, and probably more relaxed than you have in years. You’ve forgotten your to do list, schedules, and the importance of the time of day, and day of the week. You morph from worrywart and sufferer of decision fatigue to your cooler, more relaxed camper persona, who’s most pressing concern is whether to walk down to the water or continue to sway in the hammock. It’s a chance to spend multiple days in mono-task mode which is a HUGE luxury for a lot of us and one of the most creatively refreshing things you can do.
10. Just do it. You’re going to whine about all the gear. It’s going to be too hot, too cold, too windy, or it might rain. It’s going to seem like a lot of work and you may as well just stay home because you could get soooo much done. But… go camping. At least sometimes. It’s good for your soul. Your inner woodland nymph crying to get out will thank you.