Friday, September 11, 2009

Camping Options

I don't camp nearly enough. Usually I only get out for 2-3 weekends a year. I spent enough weeks in the woods in the army infantry, though, that I know what it takes to get by comfortably. A couple of weeks ago a few friends and I went out and spent the weekend in the boonies. It was a much needed break from civilization. As nice as it is to be able to flip a switch to turn on the lights or hop in the car to get to the grocery store sometimes you just have to unplug. Whenever I go camping I can't help but think to myself "what if I had to do this to get by?". It really makes me think about my preps. Now while the rest of my buddies were sleeping on queen sized air mattresses in 10 person tents or the beds of pickups I was sleeping on a portable air mattress that folds up small enough to fit in my pocket. They would have either had to drive their shelters in or carry them in during an emergency. Mine easily fit into my pack.

We were camping 10 feet from our vehicles, though, so maybe I was just torturing myself by camping with just what I had on my back. I was probably torturing myself more by hiking around with my backpack on the second day that we were out there. I didn't do more than a couple of miles but I definitely came to the realization that I either needed to lighten my pack or get back into shape.

Bedding really struck out at me during this trip. If it had been an emergency and we'd had to ditch the vehicles then I'd have been the only one sleeping semi comfortably. The rest of the guys (and even worse....their wives) would have been trying to get comfortable on a bed of sticks, leaves and pine needles. They were all sporting air mattresses that were really comfortable but that would have folded down to about the size of any of our backpacks. I had one of those cheap air mattresses that's about 6 feet long with several individual chambers that you have to blow up manually.

You know what I'm talking about. It's one of those mattresses with 6 chambers side by side. You blow each one up like ballons individually. They're a pain in the butt to inflate and they're an even bigger pain to deflate. They're stupid cheap, though, and when deflated they take up very little room and they're pretty light. They're great for a camper who doesn't want to carry around an air mattress but doesn't want to make a bed out of sticks and leaves every night. There are, of course, some other very convenient options.

You can always pick up a rolled up chunk of foam. They're extremely cheap, light and they keep your body off of the ground while you're sleeping. They're pretty bulky and not exactly easy to find a spot for on your pack (especially the ones that are worth a crap) but they're better than nothing and arguably more convenient than sticks and leaves. The ground does a really good job of sucking the heat out of you when you sleep on it so you need something between you and it. You could always play the super hardass and just build your bed out of sticks, grass and whatever else you can find.

There's always the self inflatable mattress. These are pretty light. By the time that I got out of the army this is what we were using. They're awesome but they're extremely expensive and they're still pretty bulky. They're pretty durable and extremely simple to use. The comfort level is very high. If I needed to walk somewhere and I knew that it was going to take a few days then I would want one of these on my back to get there.


theotherryan said...

I don't camp unless it is like a big family outing. In the last 3 years I think I've spent 3 nights camping for pleasure. I spend enough weeks of every year (months really) sleeping in the woods for work that it is the last thing I want to do for fun.

When we eventually have kids we will start camping again so they can have those experiences and get those skills.

Between work and being an Eagle Scout my skills in this area don't get particularly rusty.

For sleeping I prefer the ubiquitous foam pad. They are light and totally bomb proof. Air mattresses pop all the time and so do therma rests. Both are great for a one nighter but if that sucker pops on day 1 of a week long field problem you will be a bit cold and sore for 6 nights.

Camping is a good thing to do for sure, especially for those who don't have those skills ingrained and constantly refreshed. No reason you can't be pretty darn comfortable with what can fit on your back. Though a cooler with eggs, bacon, burger and beer is sure nice;) said...

Good observations about what you need beneath you to sleep well. It is an age old problem because carrying a comfortable enough pad usually makes it a bulky and heavy one.

What I do is carry a basic foam pad and then choose a campsite where there is ample material for natural padding - as you mentioned leaves, and such. This works well for me because a good pile of leaves beneath the tent or ground cloth forms an excellent mattress that I do not have to carry.

Robert said...

My wife and I do a lot of camping and like you, we have incorporated our own personal disaster plan into our camping adventures. The US Department of Homeland Security says to keep 3 days food and water in case of an emergency, but after watching Hurricane Andrew hit Florida more than a decade ago, we made the decision to be self sufficient for two weeks.

We keep our camper stocked with normal camping essentials like basic cookware and a camp stove, but we have 6 disaster boxes set up in storage that we grab that includes food, clothing, water, basic tools, and other survival items. Adding survival gear was an easy extension of our camping hobby.

Stop by our camping blog sometime at

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