Every year around this time, the calls go out in e-mail: Who’s in for camping this summer? And every year, I forget about the previous year’s camping trip, with the freezing-cold nights or the train that seemed to be right above our campground. Every year, I write back an enthusiastic “Yes! We’re in!” and we book a campground somewhere beautiful in August, when it’s reliably nice.
Not this year. This year, I refuse. Because actually, I hate car camping.
Car camping is different from back-country camping, which I love. That’s when you pack as little as possible in a huge backpack and carry it 10 or 12 miles to a campground on a mountain. And there, after filtering your creek water and eating your freeze-dried astronaut food, you collapse into a blissful, dreamless sleep until dawn. You are far too exhausted to care that it’s not comfortable, sleeping on the ground. You know that in the morning, it will take 45 minutes for your water to boil for coffee, and it’s best to just get some sleep.
Car camping? Car camping is bullshit. That’s when you cram a ton of stuff — and I mean a TON OF STUFF — into your car, set up your tents and … sit around. Maybe you hike, maybe you kayak but if you have a really young child, you mainly just sit around and hope they go to sleep early enough so you can drink a beer. And you need to drink a beer (or two) because you know that the night is going to be long and horrible.
“But camping is so much fun!” Indeed, you haven’t really lived until you’ve strapped on a headlamp at 4 a.m. to visit the campground bathroom, all the while thinking: Didn’t a similar scenario end badly for someone in a “Friday the 13th” movie? And it’s a hoot to sleep next to your five-year-old kid, who alternates between being scared and kicking the crap out of you all night.
I’m closing in on 44, dear friends, and there is not a Thermarest on the market that can mimic a mattress. And some dumb college kids will ignore the campground curfew and whoop it up drunkenly until 2 a.m. and it’s just … not how I choose to spend my precious Seattle summer weekends. No. NO.
So, revoke my REI card. Tell me I’m not a true outdoor lover. I could care less. I am not going car camping this year, or ever again. So if you want two tents, three sleeping bags, three Thermarests, a camping stove and tons of other gear, you just let me know. I’ll sell it to you — cheap.