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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.