Friday, June 19, 2020

Tiny Trailer Camping That Is Self-sufficient and Pandemic Safe

Lake Sugema Campground, a site we had considered for this trip.
The utilitent will be our bathroom and shower.

Camping for me has never been that much of a social event. Being by myself or with my wife is usually my camping experience (although that might change when our grandchildren get older and if the health environment supports more social interaction). Being on our own and discovering the beauty and wonder of the natural world that surrounds us has always fascinated me, and camping provides a basecamp for interacting with nature.

When I wrote an earlier article about how traveling solo doesn't mean that we have to feel lonely (Traveling Solo: Being Alone Is Not the Same Thing As Being Lonely), exploring that idea, I discovered that solitude isn't isolation, that there is a spiritual unity that can connect us with the world.

During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, recognizing the positive aspects of solitude is an important aspect of camping. Finding the means for self-sufficiency, both mentally and physically, is a new and refurbished survival trait that my wife and I are pursuing.

Mental Self-sufficiency

I wrote quite a bit about solitude and self-sufficiency in my traveling solo article that I linked to above. Henry David Thoreau knew solitude and used it to expand his life and his connection to the world around him. He wasn't a  hermit or anchorite, though. He still interacted with the community around him in Concord, Massachusetts. We can still interact with our social community during this time of COVID-19, but we have to do so in a manner than includes a lively acceptance of the coronavirus, its dangers, and the precautions to be taken.

Fall in Bentonsport Campground, a local campground I intent to visit again.

At the time I write this, I see the greatest danger to our present lifestyle is getting too familiar with this pandemic and letting our guard down--"crisis fatigue" is one term for the stress that prolonged interaction with a crisis can produce. It can cause us to break down . . . or give up. I've seen this in my state of Iowa, a state that never shut down completely, yet now that it has "opened," seems to be in denial of the coronavirus epidemic in many ways. The governor insists that because hospitalizations and deaths have not skyrocketed, that we can "open up." All we have to do is to take appropriate precautions. For many people, though, perhaps because of crisis fatigue, "opening up" means letting down and taking fewer precautions, which really opens up society to continuing waves of coronavirus illness. How this affects our society is really an experiment, and we won't know the effects except in real time consequences. I hope they are positive, but . . .

Some solo, late-fall camping at Indian Lake Park Campground, Farmington, Iowa

For camping in Iowa, the campgrounds are completely open now, even shower and flush toilet facilities. The guidance from the state is just "take appropriate precautions." Based on people's actions so far in opening up, some folks will just go back to pre-pandemic patterns of behavior. Some people will provide lip-service to pandemic procedures but interact in a manner that significantly increases their risk to exposure--we might call this approach "precautions lite," the idea being "I'll take the precautions I see are necessary as the day goes along." The problem, of course, is that the coronavirus is invisible. A final and best approach to being safe is to choose to continue with the best-practices protocols, even though a significant number of people have lowered their standards.

Hiking at our local Jefferson County Park

If you choose the final approach--say if you are a senior citizen or someone with health issues that put you in the greatest-risk category--then tiny trailer camping, fortunately, is an activity that can be self-sufficient, one that can be enjoyed with relatively low risk. You have to keep your mind on safety measures, though. Don't let down mentally. It's like a sport, say basketball. It's the fourth quarter, you're ahead, you let down, and the momentum flips and suddenly you're losing. Don't let that momentum change; maintain your winning streak.

Physical Self-sufficiency

Physical self-sufficiency in the time of coronavirus means being in control of your physical environment, of actively managing your physical world. That's not so hard with camping, especially if you have a small trailer instead of a tiny trailer. The difference? Small trailers can have their own kitchens and bathrooms, which allows campers to be at a campground yet to also to not be reliant on the campground's facilities. You're hiking, relaxing and enjoying nature, but you aren't sharing facilities with people outside your safety bubble.

Honey Creek State Park with some fall seclusion

Even with tiny trailers, complete self-sufficiency can be achieved; it's just that everything won't be self-sufficiently contained in one camper unit. You have to improvise and bring some add-ons. My wife and I will be camping next week for five nights (Sunday--Thursday), and plan to bring all the equipment we need to be completely self-sufficient. Here's our list of extras.
  1. Utilitent. Our Green Elephant utilitent will provide us with a small private space for toilet and showering needs. We've owned this shelter for several years and have found that it works well.
  2. Toilet. We own both a water-using portable toilet and a dry-bag toilet. For this trip, we are going to use the dry-bag toilet because it will allow us to not even interact with the campground's dump station. 
  3. Shower. Although I'm providing a link to the shower unit we're going to use, since I've only tried it once in our shower, we're not vouching for it. It's a small battery-powered unit where the suction-motor is immersed in a bucket, and the shower head is attached to a long tube. It cost under $50. We'll see if it provides minimal bathing opportunities. I've bought two five-gallon buckets for water, which we'll fill early in the day and set in the sun for the water to warm. We also have an induction burner and pot to heat water with. 
  4. Quick Set Clam outdoor shelter for office and cooking. We've used this Clam shelter for one season and have been pleased with how our livable space is expanded, especially for my wife's office space. Even though our tiny trailer is a "standy," it's still small, and having the extra space of a tent-shelter will increase our self-sufficiency. 
  5. Kitchen and food. I've provided a "Camp Cooking" link for several articles I've written about cooking, equipment, and procedures. Since my wife and I aren't big about going out for dinner while camping, we've had a complete cooking set-up for quite some time. 
  6. Tiny trailer. This "Why Tiny Trailers?" link provides articles about why having that tiny trailer (or small trailer), as opposed to a tent or big rig, is a good thing. A place to get out of the weather, more security, a "bed on wheels," there are several reasons why owning a tiny trailer increases the safety and self-sufficiency of camping.
Once we set up our safe "COVID-19" basecamp, we'll be able to enjoy ourselves, having distanced ourselves from close interactions with others. When we show up at our reserved campsite, we will sterilize those areas possibly touched by the previous occupants--table, electric hook-up, and water faucet. We will take sanitizing spray and face masks with us when we walk, and we'll continue to wash our hands often and keep our camper clean.

Our Quick Set Clam, or "Mobile Office 1"

The great thing is that this camping lifestyle isn't that much different than how we have camped in previous years. We're adding shower, full-bathroom use, and sanitizing procedures (as opposed to standard cleaning). Also, at this time, we're still camping closer to home. Our camping spot is at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park in Iowa, which is only twenty-five miles from home.

The Green Goddess, the safe focal point of our self-sufficient camping

This is our first outing together since the onset of the coronavirus. This spring I've been busy in the garden, which is beautiful and producing lots of vegetables. We're lucky to have our son who will watch over the garden while we're gone--watering, weeding, and spraying (and harvesting and eating). I've read online about others who have already gone camping this season. My wife and I are moving cautiously and locally out into the camping world again. I'll keep you updated on our experiences.

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  1. It sounds wonderful! I am still camping with the dog in our tent in the backyard. So far she's still excited by it and I am enjoying it too. I'm going to go look at that clam office...seems it would be useful.

    1. The Clam is useful, but be sure to look at the set-up video prior to buying. It's not too hard to put up, but there's a definite, precise procedure to it. Glad you're enjoying some backyard camping time.