How to fall in love with camping
Camping is more glamorous than you think. Here’s how to get over your fears and spend some time in the great outdoors
How to enjoy camping
I’m fortunate to have been exposed to camping from a young age, and I’ve loved it ever since. That’s not to say I haven’t lain awake at night worrying my tent would leak or wished the outhouse smelled better. But in my opinion, all the good stuff that goes with camping far outweighs the not-so-good. I won’t go on and on about the health benefits to both body and mind of fresh air and being surrounded by nature. And I won’t describe what it’s like to be close to the sheer beauty of our country; these photos do a better job of that. (Thanks to contributors to our sister publication, Our Canada, for the shots on these pages.)
I think the most useful thing I can do is rebutt some common excuses people give-my own friends and family members included -for being gun-shy about camping, even if they’ve never tried it. And if you’ve tried it and had one bad experience, give it another go. It could be the best thing you ever did.
Let me qualify this advice by saying that hike-in and canoe-in wilderness camping require careful preparation (totally worth it). But “car camping”-when you can drive your car onto the campsite-is also lots of fun, and surprisingly comfortable. Purists may call it “glamping,” but whatever-if it gets you out there, that’s what matters.
You don’t have to sleep on the ground or in a bag
In my opinion, a sleeping bag is one of the most unpleasant things ever invented. It’s like sleeping in a full-length straitjacket. Many people have no problem with them, but here’s my way to sleep like a baby: Get as wide an air mattress as you can, but not a double-thickness one (they can get cold). I like to blow up our air mattress with a foot pump rather than an automatic pump; my ritual upon arrival at any campground is to work in a little leg toning by standing there pumping, alternating legs, while sipping on a cold beer. But I digress. Back to the comfy bed: Put the air mattress on an opened-up sleeping bag. Add a fitted sheet, top sheet and blanket(s). Top this with an opened-up sleeping bag if it’s going to be a colder night. Bring your pillows from home. Mmmm.
There are usually bathrooms available
Well, they aren’t the most wonderful places. But the thing is, it’s rare these days for larger campgrounds not to have a bathroom and shower facility. Even if it’s a bit of a hike, it can be a nice walk after dinner. Or, drive over. If you do have to use an outhouse, they’re much better than they were a few years ago (trust me). Just don’t look down.
Camping food is better than you think
Nobody wants to eat instant soup and dehydrated vegetables. So how does my own three-day “glamping” menu sound? Dinner #1: Steak with mini potatoes roasted in foil with red peppers and onions; salad; glass of red wine. Dinner #2: Grilled chicken tikka (marinate it at home and bring it frozen) with rice; roasted tomatoes; corn on the cob; glass of white wine. Dinner #3: Pasta puttanesca with salad; wine if you want. Desserts can include chocolate banana splits (slice open a banana in its skin; stuff with dark chocolate; wrap with foil and heat over the fire) and, of course, s’mores. Lunches: Tuna wraps; canned soup; hummus and veggie sandwiches. Breakfasts: Pancakes with maple syrup; muesli and fruit; bacon and eggs. Snacks: Fruit, popcorn, granola bars. (Check out the dinner recipes, and a list of essential gear).
Some random last thoughts: The later in summer you go, the fewer the bugs. Today’s tents are so easy to put up (as are bug tents that you set up around a picnic table). And get a tent that’s too big rather than too small; for two people, get a four-person tent.
If I’ve convinced you to try camping, I’d love to know how it goes; please write to me at [email protected] My fingers are crossed that you’ll enjoy it.