Camping For Seniors (or, Too Old To Squat!)

Howes2by Gary Howes
Guns and Gunsmiths Editor

I have loved camping since I was a small child. And I’m talking about rough camping with a tent or tarp for shelter and the barest minimum of luxuries. I am not referring to “camping” in a large motorhome equipped with a full bathroom, squishy full-size bed and a full kitchen. That is what my wife considers camping, bless her heart, and I have to admit I do enjoy it as well, especially on longer vacations.

But several times a year I venture into the woods with only what I can fit in the back of my small Jeep, and spend a few days by myself away from the distractions of television, phones, email, computers, and annoying people. I have a little “secret” camping spot about 100 miles from home that is perfect–a small flat area about 100 yards away from the dirt road, behind some trees and next to a pristine creek. If I remain quiet, the few cars that go by don’t even know I’m there.

My secret campsite. I would tell you where it is, but then I would have to kill you.

My secret campsite. I would tell you where it is, but then I would have to kill you.

Some of you may have watched my video article “Bug Out Basics–The Acid Test” here on Guns and Gunsmiths where I went camping with nothing but my small bug-out bag. No tent, sleeping bag, propane stove or any of the usual stuff you might take on a camping trip. It was fun, and educational, but not very comfortable–especially at 4 o’clock in the mornings when the temperature plummeted to about freezing. However when I go camping just for the heck of it, I usually take some luxuries–after all, it’s supposed to be fun and relaxing, right?

But recently I woke up and wondered who was the old man in the mirror looking back at me, and I now find that there are some things about camping that are definitely not as easy as when I was a younger man. What to do? Give up camping? Never! We must adapt and overcome the difficulties faced in our senior years and continue to live life to the max!

So, over the last couple of years I have added a few new items to my camping supplies that are more suited to my senior situation. Most of them have to do with getting off the ground. As a young lad, I could spring up and down from the dirt just by uncrossing my legs, my hands usually full of beer and burgers. Not any more! Now I grunt and groan like a wounded bear and struggle to maintain any hint of dignity as I lumber to my feet and then try not to lose balance and fall back down again. Embarrassing!

So here are a few of the “mod cons” I now take camping.

Camping Cot

Sleeping on the ground is fine until you wake up in the middle of the night with an urgent need to go outside and water the trees (something that also seems to happen more frequently as we age). It’s hard enough trying to unzip the sleeping bag with frozen fingers without then having to struggle to your knees, crawl out of the tent and stand up without tripping over the tent guy lines in the dark. So I added an inexpensive fold-up cot that at least allows me to swing my legs over and get into some semblance of a sitting position first.

Hammock

This camping hammock folds very small--great for backpacking.

This camping hammock folds very small–great for backpacking.

This Christmas I asked for (and received) a specialty camping hammock. These have several advantages over tents and cots–you can set them up over rough ground and not feel every rock in your back, you can set them at a comfortable sitting height for easy in and out, and by golly it is so much more comfortable than the cot I was telling you about above. A camping hammock is also much smaller than a tent, so it is great when backpacking.

You do need some”accessories” for your hammock such as a tarp to erect over the top in case of rain or drop bears, a mosquito net if it is that time of the year, and an under-blanket or pad to stop your backside from freezing when the cold wind blows.

Dining Table and Chair

It is never particularly comfortable to squat on the ground with a plate of beans balanced on your lap when dining al fresco in the bush. So now I always take along a folding camp chair and a small kiddies fold-up table I picked up at my local Costco. All I need now is a set of fine china and candelabra, right? The table is also handy just for keeping things out of the dirt when relaxing around the campfire.

A small folding child's table from Costco is perfect for getting the kitchen out of the dirt. Add a folding chair and you have all the creature comforts.

A small folding child’s table from Costco is perfect for getting the kitchen out of the dirt. Add a folding chair and you have all the creature comforts. Notice the LED lantern as well.

Toilet

OK, here’s where it gets ugly. I’m afraid to say that I am too old to squat without the fear of falling backwards, my pants tightly wrapped around my ankles, and trying to avoid what I just left on the ground! A portable toilet which is nothing more than a seat on a lightweight frame now gets set up over a small foxhole a respectable distance from my campsite, along with a roll of TP and a small shovel for burying the evidence.

What? No bidet? How uncivilized!

What? No bidet? How uncivilized!

Illumination

Older eyes need more light. Sorry, but that’s a fact, so I also added a great little battery-powered LED lamp. It can stand on the table, or hang from the tent roof or a tree, and last about 80 hours on the low setting. It is much more convenient that a propane lantern, and the new LED bulbs last a long time. I found mine on Amazon for a very good price. My old Coleman propane lantern now collects cobwebs in the garage.

Other than these, my camping equipment is pretty much the same as when I was younger and more agile. But with the addition of these few concessions to old age, I can still look forward to a camping trip and have a great time in the bush without falling down, hurting my knees, getting really dirty and taking ibuprofen for all the resultant aches and pains.

How about you? Let us know in the comments below what concessions you have made in your twilight years so you can keep on enjoying the fun of camping.

 


17 Responses to Camping For Seniors (or, Too Old To Squat!)

  1. Really cool article Gary, I really enjoyed reading it. It was pacifying and made me THINK of camping, but not actually participate in it during this darned cold weather we have now in Canada where I reside.

    Your folding chair is identical to the one I have had for at least a decade – the plastic “feet” just broke off this past summer. That’s the weakest link of the chair (the rest of the chair is in decent shape). I’ll see if I can revive it somehow.

    I have an LED lantern that uses three AAA batteries. To charge the batteries there is a hand crank you wind up for a minute. Has high and low (and off) setting and it works great at home for power outages also. Not sure how long it lasts on high and low but last power outage it was running strong on high setting for two hours, then the power returned.

    I have a Dynabox LED headlight (it may only be about 80 lumens) – like the lantern it also has a power source that can be charged by hand cranking for a minute or two, or it can be charged by USB. It also comes with a separate power pack that uses three AA batteries. The power packs attaches securely to the head strap. Has a high, medium and low settings (not sure how long each setting lasts from a full charge). I like the hand crank gadgets (I have others as well). Wish I had a hand crank on me so I can charge myself up to full power in two minutes or so.

    Does your lantern crank charge?

    As per your question: “How about you? Let us know in the comments below what concessions you have made in your twilight years so you can keep on enjoying the fun of camping.” …

    … Fortunately, I’ll have to let you know in twenty years or so my friend.

    I like the toilet set-up … I wonder if there is a durable inflatable toilet seat (equipped to sturdy, aluminum fold-able legs) available? I think that would be great for backpacking (or at least a compact alternative to a plastic toilet seat) and easy to wash off when having to be stowed in a pack or vehicle. Just a thought.

    Again, great article, really enjoyed it, thanks. You got me laughing quite a few times.

    Cheers

    • Thanks for your comment Dana.

      No, this lantern does not have a crank backup, but with the long life of the batteries and the short time I go camping I don’t think that is an issue. For a long term survival situation though, it might be a good idea.

      I’m glad my “musings” provided you with some comic relief–that was part of the purpose of the article, to be light-hearted and not too serious. I did try out my camping hammock today in the front yard and it was so comfortable I fell asleep in just a few minutes. But then, I am an old f*rt.

  2. I would like to share any or all things you suggest camping as a senior. I love
    The outdoors and i still want to go camping as a senior, would appreciate
    Being part of your blog if you have one.
    Thank you for your artical.

  3. well, you really made me feel old. my lantern and stove use white gas. as for the toilet, a fallen tree the right size works pretty good, but i am at the age now i might consider the set. camping has always been fun and i love roughing it. i did pick up a hammock a few weeks ago because ever since cancer i sleep with my head elevated. no one told me old age was going to be easy and it certainly is challenging. have not been camping in a few years or even out shooting in over a year. i have been working too hard. hopefully in a few months things will change. thanks for reminding me about camping. i remember going duck hunting with my dad at 10. with a pair of galoshes. covered with mosquitoes and always going over the rubbers having wet feet. i loved it. steel shot stopped me from going, who knows maybe i can get out and do it again also.

  4. Really enjoyed the article. Have not camped but a couple of times in decades. Have thought about it but now I ride a Harley everywhere I can, so camping has to be really concentrated. Would like some of the luxuries you mentioned but on a bike with two people hard to fit quite everything. Have to go with sleeping bag or bags and leaning against a tree instead of the seat. 🙂 Have a wonderful day.

    • The hammock plus tarp solution would be ideal for camping on a motorcycle. They take up much less pannier space than a tent. I was the president of the New South Wales Moto Guzzi Owners Association in Australia (many years ago) so I do know the difficulties that camping with a bike can bring.

  5. If my article can convince even a few “old-timers” who haven’t camped in a long time to get back out there, I will be thrilled. And if any of you readers are in Northern California and want to join me for a couple of days “roughing it” let me know. I usually go camping by myself, but company is always good, sitting around the campfire, drinking beer and lying our heads off. I’ll even show you my secret camping spot.

    You “young-uns” are welcome as well.

    Thanks for reading my article–Gary.

  6. This was a great article, now I know I’m not alone. I only traditional camp and on the issue of “bathroom” breaks in the middle of the night I purchased one of those folding garden seats like they advertise on tv. Its durable and light and makes a great assist for getting up in the tent, that and a pee bottle and you don’t even have to go outside. Also the State parks in Michigan and Indiana are great and if you camp in the primitive area you will feel more alone and sweet talk the gate attendant and you can use the modern shower area. Beats falling in you doo doo in the rain.

  7. My only real consession to old age as it is is my use of a portable toilet. I use a 5 gallon bucket and line it with a plastic bag.for comfort I found an old toilet seat that balances on the bucket rim.
    I am afraid I gave up tent camping long ago with the onset of diabetic neuropathy in my legs, however I do very well camping in my car.
    Thanks for a great insightful article

  8. Haven’t been tent camping since 9/11/12. Drought has really ruined things the past few years. Hope to have things settle down this summer for a well deserved break from the chaos and some good hunting and fishing. That is part of the WHY we retired to the NW.

  9. I tent camp in northern Wisconsin late fall deer hunting and it can get very cold. I’ll wear warm sweat pants, warm hooded sweat shirt, and socks, in my sleeping bag. If I have to get up to go in the middle of the night, I don’t have to put clothes on to step out for a minute.

    • I know what you mean Vern. I once camped at Yosemite in January in a small tent just to prove that I could (dumb idea!) I wore every stitch of clothing I took with me inside the sleeping bag, but somehow the cold just made me want to “go” more often.

  10. Man I thought I was the only one getting old out in the woods. I do spend maybe 2 weeks in a small tent up in the GWN fishing and playing in the creeks, and have found the ground getting harder every year as well. The chair YUPPERS, LEDs yup, table now that’s something I will have to look for! Now as far as the HEAD, that’s a good idea,sure beats the snot out of trying to find a convenient log, and a lot more comfortable too. Don’t laff Y’all have done it too.

    • The hammock was the Grand Trunk Nano. I also got the Grand Trunk Suspension Straps, a Coghlan’s Double Mosquito Net and a Snugpak Under blanket. I bought all these on Amazon.

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