Practice Makes Perfect: Camping, Part 2

photo of a wooded landscape

Brown County State Park, Photo by Fred Wittekind IV

Our first attempt at “practice makes perfect” went really well, actually.  Despite a few setbacks, I can’t wait to do it again.

We camped with a group of folks whose skills and experience ranged from serious outdoorsman to utter novice.  It was nice to see that we weren’t as unprepared an inexperienced as I thought, and I actually found the weather to be much less miserable than I feared it would be.

We did a lot of things right, but we definitely learned a few things.

  1. Simply spraying a tent with a garden hose doesn’t tell you if it’ll stand up to rain.  We borrowed a tent that had been packed away for quite some time.  We unpacked it and sprayed it to clean it and air it out a bit.  While my husband sprayed, my kids got inside it and confirmed that there weren’t leaks.  While I believe that the kids didn’t see leaks from a hose soaking, it leaked terribly during the major thunderstorm we had, and both my husband and I got wet.
  2. Rain ponchos make good blankets when your tent leaks.  It was sickenly hot when we retreated to the tents for bed.  (We had a heat index over 110 that day.) It didn’t take much time though before I got cold, and since my sleeping bag was wet, I grabbed the poncho.  Good call! Not only did my legs stay dry after that, but I slept like a baby for 4-5 hours.  Definitely worth the $8 at Wal-Mart.
  3. Marshmallows are an essential survival item for kids where campfires are concerned.  While some of the serious “survivalists” that I know would laugh, it really is true.  Kids seem to expect marshmallows at campfires.  Now, the more serious piece of wisdom that I take from this is the fact that people really do need comfort items when times are tough.  Don’t forget to squirrel back a little chocolate, coffee, or your favorite sinful treat.  It almost makes you forget that things are rough.
  4. I need to stock moleskin in my first aid kit! Remember that I’m fat and out of shape, and I knew that we’d be hiking, so I brought my best pair of shoes.  I also brought the flip-flops that I wear until the snow flies.  Before we went on a short hike, I changed into my most comfortable pair of socks and my walking shoes.  Well, I shouldn’t have done that! My husband jokingly called me “Cody” (as in Cody Lundin) because I would have been much better off in my flip-flops.  I ended up with terrible blisters on my feet, and I was very grateful that there wasn’t more time for hiking.  Next time, I’ll either walk in my flip-flops or I’ll apply moleskin BEFORE I get blisters.
  5. Heating water on a campfire takes a long time.  While it worked OK yesterday, if we’d depended on that to boil drinking water, we likely would have dehydrated before the water was ready.  I didn’t realize how long that really takes.  I’ll definitely be looking for a different, portable, small option for hot water.
  6. I’m a little tougher than I thought.  I wasn’t as miserable as I thought I’d be in the heat, and sleeping in a leaky tent didn’t break my spirits.  Not even the blisters had me cursing the day I ever thought camping would be fun.  I’m ready to do it again, and again, and again.  Practice does make perfect, and I’ll be much better off than those folks who brought their air mattresses.

If you’re like us and you haven’t been camping since you were a kid, I encourage you to give it a try.  You never know.  You might end up like me, surprised that the things you fear (like sleeping on the ground with an arthritic back, for instance) end up being a piece of cake.  I can’t say I’m as excited about the cold-weather stuff, but I’ll likely get brave and try that too, eventually.  For now, I’m glad that we went on the trip, and I can’t wait ’til we do it again!

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