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Tent Camping for the First Time in Over 10 Years: Was I Crazy?

Tent Camping at 40. Am I crazyWhen my husband and I decided to drive from our home in Ohio to Oregon and into Washington State, my husband suggested we camp to save money. I agreed. After all, I remember that our camping trips as a family were always full of adventure, and sleeping in a tent would save us money.

I excitedly set out to purchase camping gear, as ours had long since been given away or lost in one of our many moves. Since neither of us were ever fond of putting up or taking down the tent, we researched and decided on a pop-up tent. I couldn’t wait to set it up and try it out.

But as we neared the day when we would set off on our trip, I began to get nervous. Other than once when we lived in Alabama, my family hadn’t tent camped since I contracted Lyme disease during what we believe to be a camping trip on the East Coast. That was 13 years ago! My husband and I are now in our early 40’s and were repeatedly reminded that tent camping lacks many of the comforts that we are accustomed to which caused me to begin questioning myself. Was I crazy? What had I agreed to?

When V-Day (vacation day) finally arrived, my husband picked up the rental car and we packed our gear- our tent, camp stove, air mattress, lantern, bedding and other essentials and happily set off on a 36+ hour drive across country.

It didn’t take me long to remember what I loathed and loved about tent camping.

The first night we planned to camp we barely made it to the campground before the reservation desk closed at 11 pm. We made it in the nick of time- literally minutes before it closed. We received a quick rundown of the campground, brief directions and a map of the campground. We drove off in search of out tent site and after three passes through the campground, we found it. It was then, as we set up our tent in the dark, that I decided our pop-up tent was worth its weight in gold.

Five minutes later, I left my husband to manually pump up the air mattress so I could shower in the nearby restrooms. As I showered in a muddy shower stall I was reminded how much I detest public restrooms, and reprimanded myself for not packing a pair of flip flops to use in the shower.

I returned to the tent to find that we had pulled our tent too taut with the tent spikes and the door wouldn’t zip closed. I fell asleep worried that a wild creature would seek refuge inside our tent during the night.

I was ready to pack it in and convince my husband that I needed to stay in hotel rooms after that, but I wasn’t going to give in to the naysayers that first night and I’m glad I stuck it out.

The next night we slept in a cabin in Yellowstone before pitching out tent for two nights in Oregon. We loved our campsites in Oregon. We stayed at Thousand Trails in Seaside and it was great. The resort primarily caters to RV’s but there was a section for tent campers that we pretty much had to ourselves. Only two other tents were set up in the space.

The next night we drove further south on the Oregon coast and stopped at a Thousand Trails campsite in Cloverdale. You can expect full reviews on both of these campgrounds soon, but I will say that our camping experience improved greatly.

It was quite a bit colder at night than I had anticipated, but it only gave me an excuse to cuddle up to my husband. And both campsites had fire bans while we were there due to an increased risk of wildfire so we weren’t able to have bonfires or use our pie irons but we had purchased a camp stove before our trip which even came in handy when we weren’t camping.

I discovered that camping without children is much easier than camping with young kids. With our new tent, my husband and I could have our campsite set up and torn down in 15- 20 minutes tops. I also realized that though we have an air mattress, my body is a bit stiffer in the morning than I remembered it being ten years ago.

My husband and I both enjoyed our camping experience on this trip. So much so that we decided to camp a few more times on the way back home to Ohio. Unfortunately, the campgrounds we hoped to stay at were full.

But our camping fun won’t end with that trip. We’ve booked another campsite next weekend with Thousand Trails. Plus, we’re planning a few more camping trips before the summer is over. My husband is even talking about camping during our entire New England road trip later this fall.

I may have questioned my decision to camp on our trip, but my concerns were unfounded and our experiences pretty much uneventful, unlike some past experiences. No raccoons pacing around our tent at night, no wild ponies nosing through the back of our minivan and no drunk neighbors causing us to pack up and leave in the middle of the night.  This was a good trip and one I intend to experience again.

A few things to keep in mind:

Make reservations in advance- especially during the busy season.

Read campground reviews, if available, before reserving your campsite.

When you plan where you’re going, make sure you look for any alerts they may have. Ex. Flash flooding, fire threat, etc.

Pack a pair of flip flops to use in the showers.

Internet and cell service may not be available at the campsite so make sure to pass along the campground contact information to your sitter or in our case, children, before traveling.

What type of camping do you prefer? Tent, Cabin or RV?

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