Friday, September 5, 2008

Camping Essentials

Inspired by Literal Dan's most recent post. I deemed it necessary to outline my own camping essentials necessary for a satisfying if not unconventional camping experience. A cross between ABFAB and the Griswold's.

Equipment - There are many views out there on just what type of a camping experience one can achieve based on the necessities you bring with you. Conventional wisdom entails either a tent, a camper (I prefer the aerodynamic silver Airstream) or a "rustic" cabin.

Traditionally my family camps in a tent. The full camping experience cannot be achieved without first getting to your campsite late in the day forcing you in to tent construction by flashlight. If said flashlight cannot be found, we have discovered car headlights work well. This complicated performance of acrobatics and application of brainpower inaugurates the camping affair. Everyone will remember your first few hours spent swearing at inanimate objects that just won't cooperate and vowing next time to leave earlier, take the day off or just go to a nice hotel on the beach.

Due to my advanced age (late thirties) and personal comfort requirements I insist on an air mattress for sleeping. Other campers who have completed the above steps and are relaxing by their bonfires always welcome the high pitched whine of your electric mini air compressor as you blow up your air mattress of choice. What's even better is when you wander over to their site and ask to borrow a hammer (to complete tent erection), because you always forget one. It's a really great way to make friends.

Once the tent and air mattresses are installed successfully proceed with bedding setup. Air mattresses are a superb "base" but not a full package until you have the following...

First is the requisite feather bed - a three inch think mattress pad filled with down. The feather bed is only enhanced by the 500 thread count 100 % Egyptian cotton designer label sheet fitted over it. The piece de resitance is your down filled sleeping bag of choice (good for up to 30 below). Pillows with the necessary "squishyness" to achieve optimal rest round out your comprehensive sleeping experience. Eye masks and earplugs are optional.

All of this pristine cottoney goodness of course becomes destroyed within minutes as our 16 pound dog sets up camp smack dab in the center of our bed. Good times.

Nourishment - For camping purists like my family a successful trip is not complete without a well rounded diet containing anything from, in order of importance, the fat, starch and protein groups of the food pyramid. Typical meals result in anything you can skewer on a stick and hold over an open flame or in the one cast iron pan saved for just such a purpose. We thrive on a diet of weenies and marshmallows, nary a vegetable in site. The convenience of high fructose corn syrup laden prepared drinks make it easy for our kids to not only have tons of energy for all those outdoor activities but also ensures you get your quiet time as they all collapse in a sugar coma later in the day. The adult beverages of choice usually consist of anything that tastes good with Vodka.

In more recent years I have attempted to increase the nutrition factor and have found that highly processed items are more durable and easier to store. Chips, donuts, assorted candy - all great sources of "energy" for that non stop weekend of fun. For those of you who shop the perimeter of the grocery store these are typically found in brightly colored cardboard boxes in the center aisles. Freeze dried foods are the ultimate in camping preparedness as they take up little room, you just add water and throw the containers away.

Entertainment - Being out in the middle of no where tends to bring out the poetic and reflective side of me. Campfire songs, board and card games are a great source of family entertainment. For those times when you just can't take too much more of your biological lineage you can resort to more adventurous athletic competitions such as archery, bear slapping and spelunking. Our domestic creed is no one goes to the hospital on our shift.

That being said little things like broken bones are easily remedied with splints from any local tree strapped to the afflicted appendage with the bungee cord that was used to hold your rain fly. Plants and mud are outstanding when applied to bites, stings and rashes which result when tromping in the woods or paddling in the lake. Who needs a first aid kit when nature always provides?

Clothing & Other Gear - Our typical camping trip is to a resort of sorts on a lake in northern Washington state. You don't have to walk far to find the amenities of a bathroom and hot shower. Typically I strive to be the height of fashion in my silk robe and pyjama set with matching maribou trimmed heeled slippers and sleeping mask. Accessorized by a Bloody Mary or Dirty Martini, knitting bag and iPod at the ready to ponder the long term effects of owning too much cashmere while sitting in a hazy perfume of Deep Woods Off.

My friend Vanessa (who actually owns an Airstream trailer) and I set ourselves up in our own girly tent, a framework of PVC pipe and panels of luxurious indian silk (so practical). Rugs and pillows for lounging and a chandelier full of candles make our camping oasis complete. Children are under strict rules not to penetrate the perimeter when we are in residence.

After a day of being manly in the woods and on the water our respective husbands clean up, put on their smoking jackets and light their cigars over a Scotch. Sometimes we allow them in the girly tent.

Hope you enjoyed this little work of fiction. Special thanks to Hubby for his editorial assistance (a nice way of saying thanks to a guy who sat on his ass and threw in a good word or two).

We really do go camping. I really do sleep on an air mattress and feather bed. We typically bring enough stuff to fill our Subaru Forester and a small Coleman trailer. I do actually eat and bring healthy stuff like veggies and hummus and lots of bottled water. I love lounging pyjamas but usually stick to Keens', my favorite flannel and tank tops. We would never consider a trip without our camping espresso maker and I do knit every chance I get. However, there is always time for a bloody mary or dirty martini!


Manager Mom said...

I totally want to go camping with you. Especially if you can snag your friend's airstream. And that picture of Christopher Walken in "The Continental"... cracked me up.

paisley penguin said...

HeHe - the girly tent IS actually something my friend I Vanessa and I want to do sometime but who knows if we will every get around to it. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi. I have a blog at where I feature people's posts about camping, and I would like to send my readers your way. Of course I would give you credit for quotes and would link back to your site.

Thanks for considering this,

Jean B. in SC (USA)

Southern Gal said...

Love camping and love this post. Thanks for sharing.