If you're anything like me, you have gone camping very few times in your life because your mom was the type of lady that thought "roughing it" was a Motel Six with grungy bedspreads and your dad didn't have a dad. Not so much in the immaculate conception sense, but more in the he-was-an-abusive-drunk-that-my-grandma-left-when-my-dad-was-three sense.
I didn't mind the not camping thing. I'm about as handy with a hammer as a fish is handy with a Chinese finger trap. I mention a hammer because in my mind, you use a hammer to nail in some kind of stakes that help you prop up a tent or some crap like that when you're camping, but for all I know you don't even need a hammer when you set up a tent and I just made a fool of myself in saying that. That's how inexperienced I am at camping.
All of that aside, I recently camped, and I took some notes so that you, too, can camp successfully. If you follow these helpful tips I'm sure that your camping experience will be delightful and you won't be mauled by honey badgers.
1. Find the right site
One of the first things you need to remember to do when you're camping is to find an adequate site. It is important to find a place in a forest that isn't inhabited by people in houses, and that doesn't have sidewalks or very much pavement or restaurants or power lines. This type of area is called "the forest" or "the wilderness" or "a campsite" or "an especially large shoulder off the highway."
If you think you have come across a place to camp but aren't sure, there are a few questions you can ask yourself in order to not make the mistake of trying to camp on somebody's personal property. Things like "is there a mailbox in my line of vision?" or "is that barking animal a domesticated dog, or a wolf?" or "if I were to start a fire here, who would notice?" On that last one, if there are pedestrians walking around that might notice the fire, you're probably not in a campsite. You're probably on a street. Or in a hotel lobby. And if you start a fire, you will be arrested or cause the fiery death of all the occupants of a Hilton or private residence. So be careful.
You're doing it wrong.
Photo attribution here
2.Make sure to figure out what you'll sleep in.
Camping can be cruel. Just ask the Donner party. Or Moses. Or this guy.
Because of this reality, it's important to know where to sleep when you camp. Many people camp places where you need to set up a tent or some crap like that. Like maybe you need to find shelter, or make a lean to to protect yourself from torrential rains or something. The problems with this are many, not the least of which is the fact that doing so requires physical labor. That's right. If you choose to camp, in many cases you have to build a freaking house for yourself made of cloth or leaves and branches. And that makes little to no sense.
I recommend that you go to a camp that has a bunch of tee-pees set up like I did. It was called Ensign Ranch.
Easiest way to set up camp is to make sure someone has done it for you.
(Thanks for the photos, Crabtrees.)
If you fail to do this, you will be forced to put up your own tent (aka wrap yourself up in your disassembled tent like a giant sleeping bag and hope that bears don't attack you in the still of the night and eat your eyes out your face like plump, wet grapes.).
You've gotta be careful to bring the right food. Wife and I, fraught with inexperience, brought stale pretzels, one-fourth of a power bar, and an empty water bottle. So we were screwed. Fortunately, our friends the Warners brought dutch oven food which they made in pots and stuff and there were some coals or something--I don't really understand this very well. I was getting real nervous because the pots were covered in ash and looked totally disgusting and like I was about to eat dirt, but then--and I'm actually not sure how this works and I think it might involve Voodoo--but somehow this
Can I take another helping of coal, please?
turned into a bounty that included cobbler and potatoes and chicken and it was delicious, and I'm really sorry they didn't get any pictures of their meal, or that they didn't get to enjoy any of it by the time they were done taking their kids to the potty because I accidentally finished it all, but we did save them some of these:
Yes, these are Mickey nuggets on a stick.
(Thanks for the photos, Warners. Oh, and for your dinner. Mmmmm.)
4. Bathroom etiquette.
Here's the hard truth: when you're camping, you're going to have to go #1 and possibly #2, and sometimes you have to get creative. Easiest solution is to camp at a place like Ensign Ranch where there are outhouses all over the place. But even then, things get tricky. For example "occupied" means that there is somebody already in the outhouse. Please note, when you enter the outhouse, make sure to lock it, which is what enables the "occupied" sign to be seen. Otherwise you might have an unsuspecting person barge in while your wee wee is doing wee wee, and that's just embarrassing for everyone, but mostly for the older woman there to relieve her bladder. (Sorry!)
No outhouse? No problem! Just take a dump in the forest and clean yourself up with leaves. I've been there. Oh, oh, how I've been there...
Executive decision: I have decided not to look for a picture to supplement this section about feces and urine in a forest. You're welcome.
5. Have some fun!
Other things you do outside....?
Yeah, I'm drawing a blank here. Why do we camp again?
Oh yeah, it's to become one with nature. So, nature walks are a great idea. Just remember, if a bear charges you on your jaunt, DON'T RUN. Play dead. Which won't be very hard to do if you've forgotten this tip and chosen to run, because you'll no longer have a face and you'll be dead.
If you happen to be with a group of people who, for "fun," decide to do a root-beer chugging contest, be on alert. When they ask you to represent your team of 10 people because you're so masculine *curtsies*, have a ready excuse at hand. In my case, I chose to opt out because--rational as always--I was terrified I might vomit.
I discovered that the best way to handle this scenario is, instead of explaining your "reasoning", just stand there awkwardly not participating for several loooong minutes while people wonder exactly where you fall on the autism spectrum until Tami Baumgartener shows she's got more cajones than you ever will by volunteering to go for you.
Way to go, champ!!!
Afterwards, when the chugging is over, ask her if she threw up so you can feel vindicated in your decision. When she says "no" tell yourself that the root beer would have made your nose tingle real bad, and so it was still a really good idea to wuss out in front of 30 people. Then go cry in your tee-pee and wait for the shame to give way to sleep.
Now remember, future campers, the root beer chug is just one of the
6. Packing up
When your trip is coming to a close, it's time to pack up. It's important at this point to get lost in the forest on a nature walk so you don't have to clean or do any heavy lifting. Shockingly, Wife was the one who employed this strategy on our camping trip.
Okay, okay, That's not exactly what happened unless when you say "get lost in the forest" you actually mean "took the girls to a huge slip and slide on the campground without you so you could pack up by yourself, mainly because you didn't have the right shoes."
I'm not bitter.*
Welp, there you have it! I hope you find this tutorial helpful. Now, get out there and go camping before winter comes! Otherwise you will probably die. From hypothermia. Whatever disease that is.
*Yes I am.
UPDATE: A helpful reader pointed out that I said cajones when I really meant cojones. This is not the first time something like this has occurred. (You should read that post. It was one of my very first humor posts from a year ago. So it has historical significance.) Aren't you pleased to know that I'm an official "near fluent" translator for the local school district? Who needs to remember "a"s and "o"s!?
Also, I am replying to all the comments on this post now. Days later. But better late than never. Heh?