I want to take these moments to talk about the various ways we camp. At least that I am aware of in the United States. What I have seen, heard, talked about, learned from others. Anyone thinking about an extended road trip, or who wants to spend more time exploring the out of doors, may benefit from these observations.
Let’s start first with the tent crowd. That includes me! Tents run a pretty wide gamut and are as diverse as the folks who use them. Some are just big enough for a body, or two, and some, like mine, are roomy enough to walk around, stand and even have separate living areas. Some are for summer, some mountain blizzard conditions, while others are more general purpose set-ups. Some folks know how to use and operate their tent, and some do not. You can tell, as the tent would be set up in the best available spot and is secured at all available points. I saw one today that seemed to have blown over or was partially blown away. Routine for me is to stake each corner, no matter the weather, then secure every guideline loop that is offered. I have been in strong wind and pouring rain and really do not want to take any chances, no matter what the forecast predicts. A secure tent will also function to its maximum capability. The zippers will operate smooth and efficiently, nooks and crannies for storage will be readily available and able to hold items, the floor will stay in place. The little things that make your tent durable and livable.
How folks deal with the possibility of rain is worth mention. Some folks, like me, just use the rain fly that came with the tent. Now, what you cannot see is the custom footprint that I have underneath. This ground cover is specifically designed for this tent, so the size is a perfect match and there are grommets to secure it all together. No slipping or sliding around. A footprint is a great way to protect the actual tent floor and mitigate moisture, rocks, sticks, and rain. I also bought my tent and footprint from REI. That means I have up to a year to return it, no questions asked. Back in the old days, they would take anything back no matter when you bought it. I presume they either got too big as a business or too popular among their clientele and had to stop that practice. Frankly, I will pay more knowing that I can take it back to any store anytime in a 12 month period. Great insurance if you rely on your gear.
Back to tents and rain. Aside from the include rainfly, the most common tent-based rain prevention is the use of a tarp. Perhaps the tarp is strung between trees or perhaps it is visibly placed beneath the tent. Not such good ideas, according to the research I did. I understand a tarp that sticks out beyond the edges of the tent will actually trap the rain, guide it underneath your tent and most likely cause a puddle. The overhang approach may work if hung correctly and with enough tension. Otherwise, and you may see where this is going, you get nothing but a huge pool in the middle and then a waterfall all over your tent later. I have also seen some folks use those sun shade-cabana sort of things for rain cover. That may work, as long as the rain has a place to go that does not include running under your tent. I suggest securing down that bad boy, too, in case of wind.
There area also tents that go on top of your car or SUV or the bed of your pickup truck. These simply scare me to death, as they all require a ladder. One cannot stand, from what I have seen, nor can one use a chair inside if there is rain. But, if tent camping is your jam and the ground is not, this will get you way off the ground and keep you in a tent. For that luxury, you will sacrifice standing up. Please, no sleepwalkers!
Last in the tent category are the tent-trailers. These can be pulled by nearly any vehicle, including motorcycles. Your tent is packed away in a trailer and is disbursed upon arrival. I have only see these from a distance but hope to learn more as my adventure unfolds. These seem like a nice option when you are only staying one night, with perhaps an easier setup. Again, I do not know much but wanted to mention this option for those who may choose to perform more research.
Next we have the van or utility vehicle campers. These are folks who camp in what they drive. This can be a Subaru that is completely tricked out in the back, a mini or utility van that has been modified, or an upscale camper van that comes fully equipped. This group merely pulls into their site and parks. That is all! Maybe they need or want electricity, maybe not. Their set up is minimal and access to their belongings easy and immediate. Some folks in this group extend their camp outside of the vehicle, with a tent and table set up, just some chairs, or an overhang for sitting outside. I am sure food preparations will vary, depending on the cooking set up or if there is one. I have never heard of a Subaru conversion with the ability to cook inside, but I do know most of the tricked out vans have the ability. I would think this all-in-one can suck if you want to do any driving around as part of your sight-seeing or tourist activities, as you would have to take the whole house with you. I am sure folks can pack bikes, mopeds, or some other small alternative means of transportation as a way to solve that hassle. If you are only camping for one night, this method seems easy and convenient, without breaking the bank at purchase. Heck, any Walmart parking lot will suffice.
Moving up what I will call the food chain, would be smaller tow-behind campers. This can be a soft-sided tent camper, one of those Tab or mini units designed for sleeping and sitting in. Usually, the kitchen on the mini is accessed outside the unit. This group of campers is sort of in the middle. Part tenting, part RV, part car camping. This seems like a good mix for folks who do not want to spend the big bucks, but for whom camping in a tent on the ground is not desirable or feasible. You can still camp, then take the car merely by unhooking the unit. Some will have exposure to the elements, and some with total cover. I believe most are fairly affordable, and that, too is relative, but you get the idea. Not as cheap as a tent, but not as large of an investment as a full-out recreational vehicle. This group seems like a good compromise between the desire to be in the wilderness or travel and not breaking the bank or investing too much time or complexity.
Now we get to the RV, or recreational vehicle. Man, do these babies span the continuum! We have pick-up truck campers, RV’s that you drive with the living quarters attached, we have those that are pulled behind a rig and those that are pulled from the bed of a truck. I believe the amount of money you can spend in this category has no ceiling! The sky is literally the limit to the size and amenities. These folks are generally found with hookups to electricity and water. Many will have a generator (do not get me started on those) and most consider these rigs their home. They must, as they live in and around it like a house, with carpets, chairs, tables, kids, dogs, sinks, gazebos. This list, too, can go on and on. Personally, I did not want the expense, the upkeep, or the limitations theses campers would and do have. I am certain these are a great fit for those who use them, but that is not me at this time. This group will pay more to sleep somewhere, will use more gas, and will take more care and maintenance for upkeep and repair. These babies are a commitment for sure, but payoff with every possible convenience of an actual stick house.
Not ready to commit? Try an RV rental. I see them at all the National Parks and major highways. This will be a good way to travel, maybe as a group and share expenses, or to test run before the commitment of an actual RV purchase. These are the drive-and-live in type that come in a few different sizes and one that goes in the bed of a pick-up truck. Completely self-contained and returnable when the adventure is over. I would note that reservations and expenses will take some planning.
The only other group I can think of are the glampers. These folks will rent a yurt or canvas tent, camping cabin, or a little cottage. Well, the canvas tent is pushing it for these dear hearts. That is camping for this group. My friend Kalyn is solidly, unapologetically and comfortably in this group. She knows her limitations and she sticks by her guns. She is confident in what she likes and she is comfortable paying for it, scheduling around it, and staying in her zone. You go girl, get your glamping on!
I think that about covers the types of campers and camping I have seen and observed. I enjoy the variety of people, styles, approaches, foibles and fumbles. Yup, we all make mistakes at one time or another. Let us practice until we get it right. Or at least until we do it better. Hey, at least we are out here trying.
Happy camping all!