The Joy of Camping

A few friends and my wife and I went camping a few days ago. My wife and I camp out in the woods fairly often so it was not really something out of the ordinary for us – however I was doing some contemplating on that experience and reflecting on the total JOY I get when camping (I call it “bumming around in the woods”). I thought I would try to share in words some of that joy and hopefully inspire you to go camping as well.

Preparing

I will be completely honest. Getting prepared for the trip is not the best part of camping but I do some things that make my life a LOT easier. It is down to a system pretty much and works like a well oiled machine. Preparing, essentially, can be covered in 3 broad areas:

Knowing what to carry

Keeping it all organized

For car camping gear, I keep my gear in plastic containers. Some pictures
I have 4 major containers that I carry on every car camping trip:
Container 1: Air matteress, quilt, pillows
Container 2: Stove, Tent, Groundsheet
Container 3: BBQ, Charcoal, BBQ equipment (Tongs, skewers, cleaning brush, welder gloves, chimney, charcoal)
Container 4: Cooking equipment – Knives, cutlery, paper towels, spices, condiments, dry foods
Cooler: Anything that will spoil if not left in a cooler 🙂
Now all these containers sit in 1 spot in my basement. Everytime we go car camping, I haul all the containers upstairs and we are more or less ready to go. We do have to pack some food but other then that things are ready. This makes it SUPER easy to get going and prevents lethargy and laziness from creeping in.

Where to go / weather

There are a lot of places you can camp in. Sometimes, you may camp in your own backyard! That can be a fun change when it is impossible to get away to a “real campsite”.  If you can get away, however, then the world is literally your oyster.  You can camp in national parks, state/provincial parks, go off-roading  and find a place next to a remote mountain lake only accessible by hiking or 4×4.  You can camp in RV parks, private campgrounds, and by the ocean.

Make sure you pick a somewhat decent day to go camping.  I have camped in everything from -20 C above treeline in Canadian winter and a heavy rain storm which kept on for the duration of our trip (we had a big tarp rigged up on some trees and kept very dry).  But picking days with good weather will be most conducive to your joy of camping usually.

Getting there

I dont know if I have met anyone in my life who does not like road trips. Do you enjoy road trips? I thought so. Getting there is fun.
Chatting with friends..catching up…. stopping for coffee and snacks on the way. Listening to good music. Enjoying the scenery. Anticipating getting to the campsite, setting up camp, grabbing your favourite beverage, hanging out and enjoying being in nature. Getting there is FUN!

Setting up Camp

Some people start setting up things as soon as they get to their campsite. That can be needed if you are getting to your site late and its getting dark. However, I find that once you get to the campsite, it is better to take your time. Real life is usually running around from 1 activity to another so getting away from that mode is a relief. You may want to get out and stretch a bit (specially if you are getting there after a long drive), walk around a bit, get your bearings and breathe that fresh outdoor air. Once you feel relaxed, it is time to start setting up. Everyone goes about it differently but for me I find, getting the tent is step #1 (if we are sleeping in a tent) and then air mattress and getting set for sleeping. Get your headlamp/flashlight and put it in a place thats easily reachable. Once that is done, then choose other things to setup based on priorities. Maybe you want to get a campfire going ASAP…maybe you are hungry and want to cook up some food. There is a lot more to setting up camp but for now this will get you started.

Exploring the area

If it is a campground that provides outhouses, toilets, showers etc, find out where they are. Walk around a bit and get the lay of the land.
Look around and do research on the area before getting there. Make a note and discuss with camping partners on ideas of what activities to do when you get there.

Cooking and Eating

One of my favourite parts about camping!! I find that my appetite is quite good when I am out in nature (usually…however, there can be some exceptions). The cooking process starts with planning at home. First know how long you are going for. Then figure out how much food you need for the duration of the trip with some extra. Bring healthy, wholesome, hearty foods that are relatively easy to cook (however, I have been known to cook gourmet meals out in nature as well which is

Coffee

Are you a coffee lover? Or maybe you like some green tea or how about some aromatic Indian “masala chai”… Maybe you like your adult beverages (you know who you are!). Or a combination of all of the above… Whatever your taste, there is nothing like enjoying a tasty beverage out in the woods. Life is enhanced by simple pleasures. This is one of them. For me, there is nothing quite like sitting in front of a campfire, near a fast flowing creek, deep in the mountains, sipping on a cup of strong, black coffee. I, personally, do not drink alcoholic beverages so my evenings are spent drinking some hot bone broth (full of health benefits) with some turmeric and other spices to enhance the taste. I prepare bone broth at home or bring some gelatin powder, warm up some water, mix the spices and enjoy a hearty, healthy drink.

Everything is better while camping!

The Campfire

Can there be camping without a campfire? Some people may consider it scandalous. These days, due to environmental concerns or fire hazards/fire bans, one cannot always have a campfire (however, sometimes, you can get away with alternates in that case – for example a charcoal barbeque can serve as a somewhat less worthy alternative if you cannot have a real campfire).

In any case, for most people, including me, a campfire is a “must have”. There is something primal about sitting in front of a fire and meditating on the mysteries of existence and life, occasionally turning your gaze towards the starry night and looking at the infinite universe. In fact, campfire meditations are part of many traditional cultures and fire rituals are also used for religious ceremonies. The crackling and splitting of dried wood burning, the aroma and maybe roasting a onion or potato covered in aluminum foil, is magic.

For campfires, the first rule is to BE SAFE. If fires are prohibited, do not start one! Follow the rules.
Bring proper kindling and fire starters, and learn how to make a fire safely. Always make sure your fire is properly extinguished before you go to bed or leave it unattended for extended periods of time.

Packing up and Leave no Trace

It is time to go home. Already?!? Yeah, unfortunately, all things shall pass and this trip is no exception. But…hopefully there will be others. Packing up is a bit of a pain – firstly it is work. 2ndly, of course no one wants to go back home and get back to “regular life”. But it needs to be done. Start with doing smaller tasks that are easy to accomplish. I usually start off with deflating the air mattress and removing the sleeping bag from the tent and putting it up in a dry location outside so it can get some air. Then I remove and put away/pack gear and clothes etc from inside the tent. Finally, I dismantle the tent and try to dry it before packing it away. Sometimes, we do not have the option of getting the tent fully dry before having to pack it. It is imperative to dry it properly once you get home otherwise mould can form and it may destroy your tent. (see the “Take care fo your gear and it will take care of you” section below).

Please clean up after yourself! Please do not consume more resources then absolutely necessary! We want to leave the campsite clean so that the next people who come there get the full joy of camping like you did.

Getting back home and a hot shower

Now you are heading back home. Sometimes, it feels really good to stop on the way and grab a nice, hot, freshly cooked meal at a roadside diner. When you get back to the city, however, reality strikes and you of course will likely see a lot more people and traffic. But once you get home, there is nothing quite like jumping in a nice, hot shower and cleaning up real well. Make sure you drink a lot of water and re-hydrate properly if you have neglected that during your trip.

 

Take care of your gear and it will take care of you

Many years ago, I stayed at Zen temple which was located in the mountains outside of Kyoto, Japan. In many Zen monasteries and temples, you are asked to do some kind of work practice as part of your spiritual training. As the famous Zen master said, “no work , no food”. I volunteered for farming work and was assigned some shovels, spades and other tools. Once I finished my assigned work period at the temple farm, I came back to the main temple premises where the resident monks asked to properly clean the tools and put them away in their proper places. This was to help others who would need the tools at a later point.

Camping is another form of Zen. So, you have to take care of your gear. If you take proper care of your gear, your gear will take proper care of you – for years to come.
– Clean everything.
– Dry tents, sleeping pads and sleeping mats before storing them away
– Make sure your BBQ grills, cooking stoves etc are properly cleaned, dried and put away in proper storage.

It pays to be organized and put gear away in a few containers so when you go camping the next time. you have all the gear available and ready to go – All you would need to do is pack your cooler with fresh food, bring some water and the rest of the gear is ready! This works very well for me. I do not think I would go camping as often as I do if I didnt have my gear properly cleaned, organized and stored in one place.

Starting to think about that next trip

Sometimes, you tend to start planning your next trip while you are still in your existing campsite. You discover new areas or talk to friends who have ideas and suggestions.
You actively start thinking about that next trip and looking forward to it. Once you get home, you start researching sites, hikes and activities and start figuring out potential dates. You send emails or texts to friends informing them about your idea for the next trip and people’s appetite gets whetted for that next trip and people start getting excited. It is something to look forward to during a long work week. There is always that next trip and there always should be. This is the Joy of Camping.

What will you do?

You have read about the joy of getting out there – the pleasure and the growth that adventure brings. Now, it is upto you. What will you do?

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