Let’s get a couple things perfectly clear: I don’t camp. I don’t require room service, but I don’t camp. End of discussion.
That’s pretty much been my stance for my adult life, (and no I never camped as a child). Fast forward to coming back from living overseas for 2 years and traveling 50 percent of the time. We now live in southern California, are single income and have a child. So needless to say the weekends in Vegas on two salaries which we enjoyed the last time we lived here were a distant memory. But when my husband found out last April that he might have some time off at the same time our little one was on school break, I thought prefect! Where will we go, because that’s what we had been doing for two years so why would this be any different? Well as it turns out it is different. To start with the cost of living in southern California can’t really compare to the cost of living in a developing nation where a “fast food” meal for a family of 3 would run you $2 and a “sit down” restaurant would run you $20 total.
I started my destination search at the Grand Canyon, which my husband and I have only visited briefly and have yet to hike to the floor of. To stay in the lodge, where I would love to stay would run us around $200 per night at the least (and the chance of getting the cheapest room they had at the last minute was not good). If you have never stayed in a national park lodge, add it to your bucket list right now, it’s an experience of its own. To stay just outside the park at a Holiday Inn Express or something simpler would cost $200 and I was hoping to go for a full week. This is where things started to unravel. So the options (big picture) were to go back to work full time or give up traveling. Of course, none of these solutions worked for me. There had to be a cheaper option. So that’s when I dove off the deep end (the jury is still out as to whether or not I stayed afloat). A camp site at the Grand Canyon cost $18 a night and would enable us to cook our meals and not have to eat out. That was amazing, that’s practically free! You can’t even go to the movies for that much; oh the places we could go for just $18 a night!
Couple problems: 1) I don’t camp and 2) we own nothing to camp (because; see problem 1). Okay this was going to take some thinking. The main reason I’m opposed to camping is the lack of showers. Yes, there are hot showers for $2! That will work, now how about all the other reasons I don’t camp? Well it turns out I didn’t really know much about camping, which is not surprising considering I having never been camping nor did I want to go. I had no idea how much gear would cost; I assumed a lot.
As it turns out there are two types of camping, car camping and backpacking; the gear for car camping doesn’t have to be that expensive. Car camping has a huge spectrum of comfort from roughing it to living in the lap of luxury (practically). Needless to say I was more interested in the lap of luxury end, or would be if we weren’t trying to do this on a budget. So I started with researching a tent and sleeping bags to see how much it would cost us to get started. Camping, like most things, is an activity where you can spend as much money as you want to. But I didn’t want to jump in too far until I found out if camping was something I would actually do (voluntarily).
Tents – this is where I started, and again found out there were more categories and types of tents than I had any idea about. The type of tent that I discovered, which was a critical to open me up to camping, is called a cabin tent. They are amazing and have multiple rooms which allow you to stand up. All in all they are nearly the size of my first apartment in downtown Boston, and can cost just as much. Then I found the Coleman Elite WeatherMaster 6 Tent and my thoughts about camping would never be the same! The tent was huge and offered us the comfort I wanted at the price we needed to give camping a try.
Sleeping bags – next up on our “things we need to try out list”. I was looking for sleeping bags good enough that if we decided camping was for us we could get some good use out of them. I didn’t want to spend money on a sleeping bag that we would feel we needed to upgrade right away. And again I wasn’t looking to spend too much in case these were immediately put to the back of the closet for when we had overflowing guests if the first camping trip was a disaster. We ended up finding another Coleman product, their North Rim 0 Degree Sleeping Bag. They had great reviews, seemed perfectly functional and again the price was right.
Okay, now we have a tent and sleeping bags – I guess we are in! Our plan was to use kitchen stuff from home for now. We knew it would be more bulky but we were really trying to limit how invested we got until we knew this would be a repeat adventure. We would also be cooking over the provided fire pit or grill. We had a couple folding chairs and a little tailgating table already as well as 2 inflatable twin mattresses that could be connected to make 1 king (which would be big enough for the 3 of us).
So for better or worse I was going to give this camping thing a try, Grand Canyon here we come! Nice try but reality strikes; my husband wasn’t given the time off. Talk about being all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Fast forward 6 weeks we decide to go camping locally to test run this whole process over a long weekend. We are still starting with only the new purchase of the tent and sleeping bags and a Coleman Road Trip Grill the Amazon Prime fairies left on our doorstep the day before we left.
It went great! I’m in love! It also helped that we went camping on the beach which I love anyhow. But with the size and ability to stand in our tent it was really very comfortable. I could totally do this again. I’m not ready to give up my shower yet, but as long as I can walk to one I’m good to go.