Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My Tiny Trailer Take on "18 New Rules of Camping"

Finally a bit of sunshine

Here I am, sitting in my tiny "standy" trailer while it's sprinkling rain outside on a gray, overcast day. I'm in my favorite spot in one of my wife and my favorite state parks which happens to be only twenty-five miles from home. Since this campground has good cellphone reception, I'm hotspotting and reading articles on my chromebook. What do I run across but an Outside magazine article entitled "The 18 New Rules of Camping." New rules? What? It seems to me the Old School rules weren't so bad. After having read the article, I think the new rules are for new campers--or for folks newly thinking about maybe camping. As for this old camper, I think about have the rules applied to me.

Let's start with the rules that were in the head-scratching or say what? category.
  • Glamping is camping, but it doesn't have to be glam. I get this, but for me as I'm writing while sitting in my tiny trailer while camped in a great state park, I'm thinking, "What's all the fuss? A $2,908 glamping night or a $50 night in a tent--either rental featured is just a night at a camping resort or spa. I have to confess that $3,000 is almost half the price the purchase price of the Green Goddess! New campers, though, whether rich or not-so-rich, could find a night in a rental tent inspiring.
  • Definitely take the dirt road, but roughing it is out. These two rules appear to be contradictory. It's OK to rough it as long as you pay big bucks for the perfect equipment. For newbie campers sitting at home reading about camping online, roughing it with state-of-the-art equipment is a great fantasy--one I still engage in myself.
  • Vanlife has mainstreamed. This section of the article discusses how easy it is to rent a camping van, so one of the new rules of camping is that it's easy to rent a camper van. For someone who doesn't camp, renting for a trial camp experience is a good idea.
  • Bring bug spray. I had originally included this in the useful category, but I'm swinging it to the !!??!! list because . . . bring bug spray is a new camping rule?
  • Sporktula. " . . . a spoon, fork, knife, and spatula combo." I don't think a sporktula needs a rule of its own; however, if I ever see such a gizmo, now I'll know what to call it.
  • Backpacking will "suck less" if you buy "these nine new technical pieces of gear." As with many of these eighteen rules, there are links, and we all know how readers following links can increase website profits.
  • Make sure your Instagram camping photos are genuine and creative. From the window of my tiny trailer, I see a red-headed woodpecker that has just landed on a hickory tree. I didn't take a photo, so I guess I missed a genuine, creative opportunity.
Here are rules or reminders for those of us who are, as I describe it, "utilitarian glampers," or folks whose camping includes a bit of cozy.
  • Stay local. This has been the trend, one that I wrote about earlier in my article "Camping Local: Discovering Your Big Backyard." Local can be good, and with COVID-19, it's also safer for ourselves and for rural communities. There are many beautiful camping opportunities, distant and exotic, but we should never stop appreciating the ease of camping nearby. Hey, less time driving and more time camping--not a bad combo!
  • Find Your Go-to Spot. Perhaps this can be called "vertical camping," a kind of camping where one delves deeply into the geography, ecology, and history of an area. This kind of camping is definitely not "a mile wide and an inch deep." It's a good experience, one that I've experienced and written about in "It's Just Not How Many Miles or Places."
  • Expensive gear. Outside says don't buy expensive gear--rent it. A link is provided, with a mention that the gear can be FedExed to you. Frequent campers should buy dependable gear, but the buying doesn't have to be lavish. Adequate but not opulent. Renting is great for a taste but not economically practical if you camp regularly.
  • Bring your phone. Although the article is enthusiastic about great apps and websites (with links), I do think that the ability to keep connected (if you want to) or to work online (as I'm doing now) is not antithetical to being in and enjoying nature. Our electronics can be additive but should not not addictive.
  • The campfire is still everything. I can't argue with this, although I'm not going to have campfires this trip because it's so hot and humid. How can we describe the pleasure of a campfire on a cold morning--totemic, atavistic? A deeply satisfying warmth, certainly. 
  • "You will not be mocked for your massive tent." Hmmm. I do like the basic idea that camping needs do have a lot of personal qualities and quirks. We should buy what we need, not just blindly follow the current fads. March to our own drum.
  • "Food tastes better outdoors." Yep, hunger is the best spice. Some of my most fun articles for this blog have been about camp cooking: cooking in a tiny space, campfire cooking, Dutch oven cooking. Cooking in the rain or wind is not much fun, but after a full day of bicycle riding or hiking, you betcha, that camp food is really tasty.
  • "Company is overrated." I once researched and wrote about camping alone . . . while camping alone: "Traveling Solo: Being Alone Is Not the Same Thing As Being Lonely." Henry David Thoreau and John Muir both wrote about how solitude can nurture the integration of the outer and inner world. 
  • Sleeping beneath the stars. Ignoring the links to sleep products, living in nature is a powerful experience. That's one reason I like tiny trailers. I'm old enough to like and need the comfort of my own bed, yet I still want to experience that intimacy of falling asleep within the loving arms of the natural world, if you'll forgive my waxing poetic. Tiny trailers are sometimes called "beds on wheels," and a comfortable bed is one big reason why many owners were attracted to tiny trailers--that and low cost, easy towing and storage, and a light footprint on the environment (compared to the behemoths).
I'm sure Outside magazine is perfectly meeting the needs of its readers with its advice about the eighteen new rules of camping. Judging from the new rules, I think the magazine's readership consists of folks who read about camping more often than actually camping--and that's okay. I've had a bit of fun poking holes in some of the "new rules," but what is really important is for people to find a comfortable way to camp. Thanks to the magazine for nurturing stronger connections with the world we live in.

And now I've finished this article and am going to follow some of Outside's advice. I'm going to cook lunch, which today will include some warmed up spanakopita, cooked yesterday morning using fresh kale from our garden. Yum! I'm sure it will taste great! I'm hungry, I'm outdoors, and since my wife went back to town, I get to eat both our portions. It won't keep, you know. However, sadly, I'll be eating it with just a plain old fork.

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  1. Another great and helpful article for newbies and some of us seasoned campers.

    1. Thank you! As a camper and writer, I found it most interesting to try to figure out to whom exactly the article was addressed to. I think the most useful reminder for me was that it was okay to bring a big tent--in other words, to meet your personal needs.

  2. Interesting. We’ve noticed the huge size of some tents lately. They are never going to fit on the pads Or spaces offered in many places we’ve been to. It’s sometimes challenging to fit ours in as we have an attached screen room that we love but definitely increases our footprint. Had to laugh at the “sporktula”!

    1. We have a big tent, a Big Agnes 6-person Big House, that my wife and I used for our camping prior to purchasing a tiny trailer. It's a bit of work to put up, but a beautiful tent.