Last weekend I went car camping. It’s been awhile. The last number of years have been more focused on river trips, backpacking, and a mega land-yacht RV. All of which arguably have components of camping, but are not exactly the same. To me, “camping” is loading up the family truckster, driving to a designated forest service campground and unloading a mountain of gear at a designated “site”. Said site shall contain one rickety picnic bench, one fire ring, tent sites that are on a mandatory slope of at least 30 degrees, and easy access to a standard forest service toilet that contains horrors that shall not be mentioned.
While all of those items are worthy of discussion, it’s the mountain of gear that befuddled me. With backpacking and river trips you have clear space limitations, so you’d think that I would be good at packing efficiently. Apparently those rules don’t apply when car camping. I looked at the volume of space I had in the pickup truck and lost my mind. I packed gear for every possible contingency. Enough clothing to cover temperature ranges from Death Valley to the top of Everest. I brought enough lighting products to perform neurosurgery at midnight. Small, medium, and large flashlights. A 5 pound lantern powered by 6 D-cell batteries. A headlamp. And a backup headlamp just in case. What did I actually use? The 2 inch mini flashlight one time, while digging around in the cooler for another beer. I had approximately 2,000 feet of utility cord, mosquito nets, shaving mirrors (but no shaving kit), tools, zip ties, plastic zip lock bags, a compass (we never left the campground), a broom, and at least four different drinking cups. All told I think I had three full duffle bags, a backpack, a cardboard box, a cooler, a half cord of firewood, an air mattress that was too big to fit in the tent, and a ten pound folding chair. I briefly considered renting a trailer but that would have been… excessive.
Within the first half hour at camp all this gear somehow exploded, covering the camp site. And when it rained – it all came into my little tent. I slept surrounded by mountains of stuff. The contents of every duffle bag had been pulled out and strewn everywhere, looking for the extra pair of socks I was sure I had. When it came time to leave there was no careful packing and organizing. Everything got stuffed into one giant pile into the back seat of the truck, which is now spread across the garage, the basement, and the kitchen. I plan on cleaning and putting it all away any day now. Promise.
I vowed never again. I will become the Martha Stewart of camping organization. I’ve spent approximately 45 hours researching camping organization web sites. I have visions of color coded plastic totes, camp kitchen boxes, and gear organizers. In my mind I’ve been crafting plans for adding a camper shell to the truck and building fantastic storage options so I’m ready to camp at a moments notice. I will craft laminated efficiency checklists and pare all equipment down to the bare minimum.
And then I stumbled across the Sprinter van. I am now officially obsessed. This is the ultimate car camping vehicle. Small enough you can drive it anywhere. Big enough you can comfortably sleep and have all your gear available. There’s whole community dedicated to van life. I could be ready to go fishing, to faraway hikes, climbing, escape the zombie apocalypse, a horrific nuclear accident, or just plain old camping at a moments notice. It works for campsites, boondocking, sleeping at truck stops, or Walmart parking lots. Never mind that I average about two camp trips a year. The point is that I could if I wanted to.
Now I just have to convince Mrs. troutdog. Or I could just buy more totes.
Clark: I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!