Gearing up to go camping

Sleeping on the ground is not on the list

August 19, 2010|Susan Reimer

I am not very fond of camping. And I am not very good at the principal requirements of camping: not bathing for several days, finding my way to the bathroom in the dark, cooking over an open flame and sleeping on the ground.

But if you ever go camping, you might want to have me with you. What I am missing in fire-starting, I make up for in list-writing. Go camping with me, and you will never be without something you need.

My husband's brother, Dan, and his young family love camping, and they began to invite us empty-nesters a few years ago. Not wishing to betray our age or our sedentary lifestyle, we agreed with weak smiles.

When it became clear that this would not be the last invitation to camp — and not having had such a bad time after all — I did what I usually do when presented with a new task or activity: I researched the living daylights out of camping.

My first step was to take my reporter's notebook and tour the campground, noting what other camping families considered essential: rope on which to hang wet clothes, for example. And I made notes of everything Jill, my brother-in-law's capable wife, had in her camping arsenal.

On my way home from that trip to Swallow Falls near Deep Creek Lake, I found a discount store and filled my cart with just about everything on my list. (I planned to search for recommendations and bargains on the big-ticket items, such as a tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses and stove.)

Then I purchased two large, see-through plastic bins in which to carry the miscellany: pots, utensils, coffeepot, coffee mugs, plastic cups, dinnerware and paper plates, kitchen towels, a tub for washing dishes, can opener, water jug. My list was pretty long and, I must say, pretty complete.

So, when next we camped and I needed a hammer to pound the tent pegs into the ground, I simply reached into one of my bins. When we broke camp and I needed to sweep the debris from the floor of the tent, I reached into another bin and pulled out a hand broom and a dustpan.


After our first serious camping trip with Dan and Jill and the kids, I spent the time on the ride home refining my list. Hats to protect against ticks. Newspaper to help start the fire. Foil and plastic containers for leftovers.

And after each camping trip since, the list has become a little more refined: Items written in red cannot be added until we are prepared to leave. For example, fresh coffee for the morning, wine for me and a good whiskey for my husband. Wood and kindling, plus a gas canister for the camp stove.

After each camping trip, I pack the list on top of the items in one of the bins so it will be where I can find it before the next trip. You don't camp every weekend, you know.

Time has passed, and now Dan and Jill have a large trailer with a shower, a toilet, air conditioning, heat, a microwave oven and enough makeshift beds for my husband and me to join them in their comfort.

No way.

Camping is not my idea of the best way to spend a weekend. It is buggy and smoky and there is no maitre d' and no wine list.

But if I am going to camp, damn it. I am going to camp.

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