Monday, July 19, 2010

Car Camping for Dummies

For some perverse reason, I find great joy in organizing trips. I make no excuses for this obvious dysfunction, having always been a planner, list maker, organizer and perhaps even possessing a squirt of anal-retentive behavior. Those of us, who are slaves to logistics, are sure to understand and appreciate my degree of dedication to pre-trip preparations and packing. Anyone who experiences joy, in organizing an expedition, trip or jaunt, understands the finer points of, “a place for everything and everything in its place”. No doubt, there are lost souls out there, who are much less organized and would think not of haphazardly throwing gear and children into a wooden paneled station wagon with reckless abandon. To this rabble, I do pray that they someday find the light.

Perhaps, I should have seen the warning signs earlier, as four vehicles would be required to transport the “required” gear, Grammie, Curmudgeon, Kids, Wife, Dog and two other outlaws approximately 150 miles to Salisbury State Park, Massachusetts. Like Hannibal preparing to cross the Alps or Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, thus was the logistical equivalent of getting the family organized for a long weekend of camping, fishing and beach activities. Awakening at 4:30 AM Friday, I began the arduous task of packing, repacking and then packing again. A full two hours later, my task was nearing completion and I retired to the kitchen for a well deserved cup of coffee.

Family and friends who have followed my climbing and mountaineering exploits, are sure to be chuckling at my predicament, for they know I would saw the handle off my toothbrush and cut the labels from my clothes to save carrying a few less ounces on my back. However, what you would be forgetting is that “car camping” is very different from “backpacking”. After decades of going “ultra-light” and being a minimalist, a perverse satisfaction is obtained when weight restrictions are nominal and luxury maximized. To stress this point, the family size L.L. Bean’s BIG Woods tent, that I barely managed to cram into the car trunk, is three rooms and must weigh close to 100 lbs.

I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone the other night and he boldly mentioned that by bringing all that “gear” I wasn’t really “camping”. To him “camping” was a time to rough it, improvise or make do with the basic component of survival. As I hung up the phone, I shook my head and vowed to invite him on my next high altitude climbing expedition, with his only allowance a toothbrush and one change of underwear. See if that takes the poor boy back to “basics”! The point that my good friend was missing was the ecstasy that can only be achieved by a healthy dose of over indulgence, extravagance and excess that comes with car camping.

For the uninitiated, who have yet to take an extended car camping weekend with the family, it may pay to heed a few basic thoughts and suggestions. First, if there is room in the vehicle and you think that there is even the slightest chance that an item may be needed, bring it. Secondly, watch “National Lampoons Vacation” at least three times before departing. Thirdly, bring an air freshener . . . four days in a tent with a wet dog and kids still in diapers . . . enough said. Lastly, enjoy your time with your family, in one of the most fantastic ways possible to get your kids out and experiencing the great outdoors!

P.S. Its my birthday today! As a birthday present, anyone who read "Car Camping for Dummies" and enjoyed it please drop a comment wishing me a happy birthday!


  1. Happy Birthday Mr. Anal-retentive! Hope it's the best one yet ☺

  2. Ahhhh... car camping, nothing better for "family time"! The kiddos love it, my hubby is the "packer", I just say "yes dear" and hand out the snackies :) We have now axed the super tent and added an 18 ft 1977 camper to our adventure, LOL... let the good times roll!


  3. I really enjoyed this post and found it very entertaining. The toothbrush and label idea is something I do actually and learned it from watching adventure racing in New Zealand.

    Camping with family is a true test of any outdoorsman. Anyone with grit can rough it by themselves...the test is when you inflict this on others and deal with their wrath so far from any convenience stores.

  4. Happy Birthday fella - hope someone showed their appreciation and the others bought you drinks

  5. Happy birthday big boy...

    I might get a window for a solo run for the ATV trip...


    P.S. ---> a squirt of anal-retentive behavior, more like IBS

  6. SB and DDH, Birthday was a bust as the Doctors all say I can't drink any alcohol while I am battling a severe case of IBS. LOL!

  7. CC, You really know you have hit rock bottom in the weight reduction struggle with you cut the handle off your tooth brush then take a drill to what small part of it remains.

    "Deal with their wrath" . . . I am almost embarrassed to say that on this latest outing I resorted to bringing my portable DVD player in case of rainy weather. After the second day of pouring rain that DVD player was more precious then gold!

  8. MM3, 1977 camper . . . must see picture of the plaid interior and funky retro appliances. :)

    Thanks for the B-day well wishes!

  9. I've been out of touch, but I want to wish you a Happy Belated Birthday. Hope you got to hike, climb, shoot, watch, pursue, hunt, fish, and eat whatever you wanted!! :)

  10. These car camps look pretty cool. I love the way they improvised their cars to be instant camping sites! Plus they look much more durable than a tent.

    rawi-warin resort & spa

  11. Rosemary, I agree, the modified cars are a cool alternative to simple tent camping and way more mobile than hauling a trailer.


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