Getting Everyone Onboard…Overcoming Obstacles

If you’re wanting to go camping and your significant other or children aren’t as enthusiastic as you are, perhaps there are some unspoken objections they have. Take a look at the list below and see how many of these you can address. I’ll bet you’ll find yourself surrounded with family if you can overcome these common obstacles.

Morning light falls on a wooded campsite with tent at Pines Overlook at Red Bluff Campground.

Camping is a beautiful experience.

1. I don’t like sleeping on the ground

Does anyone?  The single most important thing to get for a camping trip is a mattress. Super cheap air mattresses are available for as little as $15. Personally, I much prefer my Therm-A-Rest self-inflating sleeping pad. It protects you from the cold ground, it cushions you against the rocks. You can even use it as part of a chair. Fairly inexpensive ones are found for as little as $60. Some are even a couple inches thick. The best part is…no pumping and they’re lightweight enough for backpacking. This is one item that brings more comfort value per dollar spent than anything else. Also, check out hammocks.

2. I don’t like being cold

Again, nobody does. A sleeping bag usually needs to be rated at least 10 degrees colder than the temperatures you’re expecting. Make that 20 for women. Women have physiological reasons why they get colder than men do. Plan for it, accommodate it, and you’ll both be happier. Kids, on the other hand, seem to be able to sleep in the form of an ice cube. Give them the cheap bag. And keeping a roaring fire going helps a lot!

A couple sitting around a campfire at night on at Piney Creek Wilderness on Table Rock Lake.

Gary likes to keep the fire going, especially if I'm feeling chilled. I think I sat so close to it that night that I melted my shoes a little. What can I say, I like to be warm.

3. I don’t like bugs and I’m afraid of things in the night.

If you get a modern tent and keep the door zipped closed at all times, you will not have bugs in your tent.  Using bug spray helps to keep the mosquitoes and ticks off. So does campfire smoke. As for things in the night, even when we know better it’s easy to get spooked. It helps to know that there really is nothing that can hurt you. No wolves, the bears here are timid, we don’t have badgers or wolverines. The sounds are mostly frogs and bugs with the occasional owl. Wildlife is more afraid of you than you are of it. And this bears repeating. Zip up the tent!

4. I don’t like being dirty

First off, there is a difference between dirt and filth. A little mud won’t hurt anyone. But there’s no need to be stinky. Even people who through-hike the long trails manage to stay clean. You can do a lot with baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and sufficient changes of underwear. Backpacking has taught us a lot on this one. Also remember that most State Parks have showerhouses in the summer season.

5. I’m not using the stinky vault toilet. No way. I’ll hold it

Okay, we admit that vault toilets leave something to be desired. Especially on a hot summer’s day. But most of them are actually clean and well stocked with toilet paper. Nothing like the awful experience of standing in line to use a sweltering and tiny Port-a-Potty at a festival. The campgrounds that are heavily used tend to have more undesirable toilets. Seek out the quieter campgrounds. And everyone needs to learn how to pee in the woods for those times when you just have to. See our post on toilet paper in the woods.

6. It’s a lot of work

Then simplify. There are a lot of things people always think “must” be done to have a “real” camping trip. Baloney. Figure out what is making a lot of work and make it easier. Also remember that cooking for a family at home is hard work but nothing compared to planning, buying, and preparing food for a camping trip that you then have to prepare while bending over a table while flies bite you and contaminate the food and sweat runs down your face. Consider buying prepackaged food. Go into town and eat at a restaurant. Pack a cooler with sandwich fixings and let everyone make their own. I consistently find food and food prep to be the most overwhelming aspect of camping. I can guarantee this is more of an issue than she will admit.

Woman seated in camp chair, watching night fall over a valley at Red Bluff Campground.

Camping should be relaxing and enjoyable. If it's not, then what can you change to make it happen?

7. Female reasons

Yes, this is a big one. She’s not going to want to deal with having a period while camping. Neither will your teen-aged daughter. But if you are aware of her preferences, you can accommodate them. There are plenty of campgrounds with full service bathrooms (the State Parks are great) and there are ways of dealing with this even in the backcountry. Educate yourself and find ways that make the whole process easier. Remember that ziploc bags and copious amounts of toilet paper and baby wipes will make her a lot happier. A little item that saved my camping life has been the Diva Cup.

8. It’s boring

I know people who spend the day on the lake and leave the family back at the campsite all day. Sitting around all day in the heat is no fun. Ask the family what they want to do and pick places to camp that have things to do for everyone. Accept that most kids will want to keep in touch with their friends and that cell phone service is important. Let them bring their electronics. Invest in an inverter for the car so they can keep things charged up.

Teen girl lying by her tent reading a book on her iPod while on a camping trip.

Kids are happier when they have their electronics. Here is our daughter reading a book on her iPod. She got bored sitting with us while we drank coffee in the sun.

9. I like luxury. Camping is not luxurious

I beg to differ, actually. Now we camp a lot, so we’ve invested in lightweight comfort. But a few items really make it nice for me.

Therm-A-Rest Trekker Chair– This little thing turns my sleeping pad into a chair. It weighs less than a pound and makes backpacking trips much nicer.

Therm-A-Rest Sleeping Pad– Women have hips that dig into the ground making every rock a torture. We truly are the Princess and the Pea. A properly inflated sleeping pad prevents ground contact on your pressure points and keeps you insulated from the cold ground, even in summer. This one makes or breaks a camping trip, in my opinion.

Exped Air Pillow– If we’re wearing half our wardrobe because we’re cold, there’s not much left to use as a pillow. This tiny little inflatable pillow revolutionized my camping trips. It’s nothing like those inflatable travel pillows, either. This is comfortable.

Montbell Super Spiral Sleeping Bag– I have both a zero degree bag for winter and a 30 degree bag for summer. No, that’s not too much insulation for me. I sleep cold. I’m also quite large and a regular mummy bag is too constricting. This bag stretches and I have copious amounts of space inside of it. I can even sit cross legged in it.

Starbucks VIA– Instant coffee with a real coffee taste. Individual tube packets stash easily in my pack and having fresh coffee with no grounds to spit out is as easy as boiling water.

Not all luxury costs a lot of money. Camping luxury is more of an attitude than a shopping list. Good coffee in the morning, tea or hot cocoa at night, soft clothing, a warm sleeping bag, comfortable chairs are all things that contribute greatly to your enjoyment of the outdoors. Not everyone is happy with “roughing it”. Changing your mindset to accommodate comfort will lead to more harmonious camping trips and that leads to more time outdoors. And that is the goal, right?

Sitting in my Therm-A-Rest chair drinking coffee at the campsite in Hercules Glades Wilderness.

That's me drinking coffee while sitting in my Therm-A-Rest chair, bundled up against the damp chill. It was only about 50 degrees that morning, but I run cold and I've learned to just accept it. Coats and blankets for me, please!

What do you think?