Sunday, July 16, 2006

Car Camping Sucks...

I took the kids camping this weekend, and quickly realized that car camping is a much bigger pain in the neck than backpacking. For those unfamiliar with the term, "car camping" is what most all Americans do when they say they are going camping ... pull the car up on a paved parking spot in a pay campground with running water, flush toilets, showers, probably electricity, and throw a thirty dollar, 6-person Wal-Mart tent out somewhere within fifty feet or so of the car. I tend to think of it as "Getting away from it all by bringing it with you."
Here are the differences I noted:


Backpacking for six nights: Dried mashed potatos, some instant Zatarans rice in a pouch (Highly recommended) pouches of tuna, a handful of granola/energy bars, instant oatmeal (Make mine the "fruit and cream" assortment, please) and a block of cheddar. (Oh, and a flask of Stoli.)

Car camping for two days: Massive trip to the grocery store for bacon, sausage patties, sausage links, eggs, bread, brats, hamburgers, polish sausage, hot dogs, buns shaped to match the corresponding meat, a 24 pack of bottled water, two packs of Hershey bars, marshmallows, graham crackers, jiffy pop, three kinds of lunch meat, mustard, catsup, cheese singles, a variety pack of single serving breakfast cereals, peanut butter, jelly (two flavors), Doritos, Salt and Vinegar Lays Potato Chips, Good -n- Hot Potato Chips, and Pizza Pringles.


Backpacking for six nights: Lightweight bivvy tent, packed weight: about 4.5 pounds. Time to set up: about 10 minutes.

Car camping for two days: A very nice two person backpacking tent Im testing out from Alpine Mountaineering, packed weight: about 6 pounds. The aforementioned thirty dollar 6-person Wal-mart tent (actually it was an Ebay purchase many years ago), packed weight: about 400 Lbs. (Not really, but its DANG heavy.) And finally, the lightweight bivvy tent, because one of my sons swore he wanted to sleep in it alone, but of course chickened out. Total time to set up: At least 40 minutes.


Backpacking for six nights: What I left the house in, plus a pair of sandals, a light fleece jacket, and an extra pair of sock liners.

Car camping for two days: For me, very similar to the above, but add one change of clothes. For my boys: Three changes of clothes a piece, although Im pretty sure they never dipped in to their clean undie supply. For my daughter: damn near everything she owns, plus and outfit or two she borrowed from a friend. Oh, and of course, bathing suits for all.

Backpacking for six nights: Lightweight backpacking stove and two small canisters of Iso-Butane fuel. Small, lightweight cook set, and trusty old BSA knife, fork, spoon set. Total weight: under a pound.

Car camping for two days: 100 year old inherited Coleman white gas two burner camp stove that requires substantial tweaking and repairing every time I break it out, and the aforementioned backpack stove in case the Coleman were to die for good on this trip. Most annoyingly the Travel Kitchen. The travel kitchen is a large wooden box my dad either made or bought somewhere around the year 1400 b.c. when he was tooling around California in his V.W. Camper-Van. The travel kitchen could, Im pretty sure, be used to supply the entire 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit with rations for an extended deployment. It has a huge pot and pan set, silverware, cups, a dish washing basin, a little dish drying bag that Ive never used, a bunch of trash bags, the obligatory red and white plaid picnic table tablecloth, foil, matches, fire starter sticks, dish soap, and paper towels. Total weight: Two stout Irishmen can hardly lift it.


Backpacking for six nights: God's pristine wilderness ... the mountains are your front yard and the sunrise your alarm clock. At night the nearby stream puts you to sleep. All you hear is a distant coyote, birds in the valley, or perhaps some stray critter wandering past your tent.

Car camping for two days: Jethro and Jimbos family reunion next door. Your front yard is a $200.00 RV with a leaky sewage hold, and your alarm clock is the mother of the three year old hillbilly kid who wakes you at 5:00 a.m. screaming, "Corky, whered you hide my smokes?!?!" All you hear is the $10.00 audiovox car stereo blasting Billy Squire six campsites down, and the Pabst Blue Ribbon-fueled Jethro/Bubba belching contest across the lane.


Backpacking for six nights: Shovel. Hole. Soft leaves. Nuff said, except to add that you are surrounded by fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery.

Car camping for two days: Public toilet with an equal number of microscopic bugs and six legged bugs teaming up on you from the moment you open the door. The stench of 1,000 Jethros has accumulated for ages, and you can feel the smell on your skin when you walk in. There is generally pee on the floor, at least one poop-swipe on a wall, and a collection of boogers wiped around the urinal area; a disturbing number of them wiped at the above 5'06" level, leaving me to surmise that an alarming number of adults wipe their boogers on the wall whilst peeing.


Backpacking for six nights: Entertainment consists of what you make it ... Ive built stick fences out of whittled pine branches around a sapling while solo for three days, and more recently stuck the head of a fly named Stan on a tiny little pike as a warning to all the other biting flies around. Washing dishes consists of licking it clean and putting it away till next meal so that you dont waste any precious filtered water. Bathing consists of wiping your stream-dampened bandanna across your face and head, or stripping down to your skivvies (or less, depending on the remoteness of your circumstance) in a nice steady rain shower.

Car camping for two days: Entertainment consists of MP3 players, magazines purchased at the camp store by your goofy fifteen year old daughter (Can you say Star Magazine and Teen Beat?) and again, Billy Squire from six campsites down. Washing dishes consists of trying to get all the dishes together in a little Tupperware tub full of tepid water, scrubbing the grime from them, then watching one of your kids dump the wastewater right next to your tent or under the picnic table. The dishes, of course, are probably no cleaner than before they were washed. Bathing consists of wearing sandals in order to attempt to shield yourself from more funguses and molds than are currently cataloged by the Mycological Institute for Fungal Mold Research in Human Habitations, then getting into water that is either exclusively cold, or alternates between a near frozen solid state to scorching heat with seemingly impossible rapidity. Just as the dishes -- you are, of course, probably no cleaner than before you were washed.

I could go on, but at some point soon I think this will technically be less "blog entry" and more "ramblings of an insane man" so I think Ill stop.

You get the point.


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