I am never more content than when I call a tent home. I love camping. My husband and I started camping while we were dating. Neither of us had camped when we were young. It was something we learned together out of necessity. We were just a couple of broke college kids that wanted to travel but had no money for hotels, but just enough for a tent and some gas. That is how we accidentally discovered that we both love to camp. We kept camping after we married and talked about how much fun it would be to camp with our future children. Now we have those kids and (most of the time) they make camping even more fun. There is nothing I would rather do than spend some time in nature with the people I love. Once we are sleeping in a tent all is right in my world.
This passion I have for camping means that I am in a perpetual state of planning our next adventure. Every trip starts as a hazy, intangible idea that feels a little out of reach. Fortunately, I am relentless. I search and research until the blurry details come together and the big picture comes into focus. After reading, scheming, comparing, and calculating, the dream of exploring new lands becomes a reality.
A little over a year ago the idea of a camping trip 2000 miles away from home found its way into my head. It was a crazy idea, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Logistically it seemed impossible. For us, camping had always been driving someplace in a vehicle so over packed you couldn’t see through the back window. That was true before kids, after they came along it just got worse. There would be arguing over how things should be arranged in the car to make it all fit, but eliminating anything seemed impossible. We knew it was a lot but we simply “needed” all that stuff! We would bring so much that a good portion of the camping time was spent organizing everything, losing something, tearing through everything, then reorganizing all of it… and repeat. That vicious cycle we created was a part of camping i just did not like.
To make a cross country camping trip work and fly with all of the gear needed, we had to seriously pare down what we had believed were the “essentials” of camping. No more three room tent, air mattresses or giant overstuffed sleeping bags and full sized fluffy pillows. So long to separate coolers for water, beer AND food. Lounge chairs, the giant camping stove and the convenient collapsible work station would be left at home. A trip like I envisioned meant goodbye GLAMPING and hello CAMPING.
After months of planning, we had our first go at flying with all of our supplies. We were off to the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, and to spend some time at the ocean. We had slashed our list of what we usually brought with us. Feeling like we had succeeded, we headed to the airport. As it turned out, we had NOT fully embraced the idea of minimalist camping. Five overstuffed bags were checked and we carried 2 bags a piece on the plane. The stress of managing all those bags and keeping track of iPads and cell phones, coats and neck pillows, pencils and drawing pads, books and magazines… not to mention a six and an eight year old had me thoroughly overwhelmed at the airport. By the time we were on the plane I was making mental notes about where i had gone so wrong. Cramming everything in the trunk of our rental car was just this side of impossible. To get it to close I had to sit on it and bounce a little for it to latch. It was comical for those watching, a little embarassing for me. While driving I could actually see out the back window which was an improvement, but there was still way too much time spent packing and unpacking the car then organizing and reorganizing. The trip was spectacular but we should have left WAY more stuff at home.
Not long after our return I was plotting our next trip. A few month later we went for round two, this time in Zion National Park. We didn’t check any bags and only had one carry on and four large purse sized bags. Five small bags for four people. I was pretty darn proud of us. This time we had fully embraced bare bones camping. Unfortunately, we also experienced aching bones camping. Leaving the sleeping pads at home meant not checking a bag, but all four of us ended up with aching backs and sleepless nights. On the plus side, there was more time experiencing because there was no time spent organizing. Once again, the adventure was amazing but we had not perfected the art of packing.
In a few days we are going for round three! The necessities to live and the essentials for comfort are starting to be piled on my kitchen floor waiting to be packed (Including four glorious sleeping pads!). I have pre-trip butterflies and the excitement of another adventure is robbing me of sleep. I think we are gonna nail it this time.
Is there anything you can’t you can’t live without while camping? Any tips for gear that will help us lighten our load?
I cant wait to share what we packed and where we are headed!