Lots of folks never get farther than about 150 feet from their cars, even when visiting really neat places. Shame, really. On the other hand, they DID get out and go to the State Park, so that puts them ahead of a few other folks.
Posts Tagged camp
Therm-a-Rest. Mmmmmm. One of the best purchases you can make for your camping trips. Other than, y’know… food. and sleeping bags. And those little powdered donuts. No… no. The Therm-a-Rest is better than the little powdered donuts.
Okay, so, ages ago when I first saw ‘self-inflating camping mattress’, I was hooked. What? No sitting around blowing up a sleeping pad? My dad had to do that. I recall a camping trip to Cumberland Caverns. My dad, sitting in a cave with what amounted to a heavy duty pool float, his mouth on a stem that was, frankly, made for attaching a bicycle pump, and blowing for all he was worth. This would have been 1973, and the air mattress was a big rubber thing with a polyester/nylon cloth glued to it. Real tough stuff… and heavy as lead, probably. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t drag the damned thing down into the bowels of the earth. Dad did, though. And blowing it up was, I’m sure, a complete chore for a smoker. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t dizzy myself horking a lung into the damned thing. Dad did, though.
I only remember us having two of those things. I don’t remember whether my brother and I got them to sleep on, or what other arrangements were made. It’s possible that Dad also dragged blankets and other heavy things down into Cumberland Caverns, and he got one of the coveted air mattresses. No idea about that. Too long ago.
Also too long ago, my wife and I purchased two Therm-a-Rest mattresses. We were newly married and camping with friends and doing fun things and I considered them a luxury, because all my college camping had been done rough and uncomfortable. But now older, wiser and with a wife to please, we got these wonderful high-tech sleeping pads that, if you opened their valves and left them to themselves, would eventually fill up with some air.
Honestly? Good purchase. They’re only an inch or so thick, but that’s padding, and they keep the cold of the ground from becoming the cold of your butt. And lightweight- or as lightweight as things were twenty years ago. Remember, say, cell phones, or heaven help us, computer monitors and TVs.
We had kids, and didn’t camp so much. When the kids were old enough, we’d take them along and suddenly there was math involved. “Two sleeping pads divided by three people… oh, four now…” Didn’t add up, you see.
Somewhen around then, my wife had acquired for herself a giant gooshy, squooshy sort of a Wal-Mart kind of sleeping pad. It, like the Therm-a-Rests, came rolled up and seemingly ready to head out into the wilderness, but it was a little on the sizey size. Took up a LOT of room, compared to the Therm-a-Rests. That’s okay. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, as the saying goes.
And me? I got a smaller Therm-a-Rest. It’s length was the same as our ancient patched old Therm-a-Rests, but the width was termed ‘BackPacker’. And it may be a little thinner. Nevertheless, It seemed like a hot deal. The technology had improved a great deal! My new day-glo (is that still a term?) mat was easily packed and easily blown up.
* A side note here about Therm-a-Rests. You should store them filled and flat, it seems. I’ve usually stored mine deflated and rolled up. The more you do that, the more you’re going to have to refer to the beginning of this story and my Dad busting a lung trying to inflate air pads while complaining about air pads and needing a smoke. They need some inflating after being trained to be unflated. Word to the wise. Or at least to the wiser-than-me*
Now, a few weeks ago, my wife had to have a new sleeping pad. Her giant squashy thing finally went to the great Storage Shed in the Sky. The little quilted circles that went up and down the pad started to pop loose when you inflated it. The first couple to let go were at one end, so that end became the ‘pillow’, and so it gained a little time. Then it started popping in the middle. Suddenly the pad itself was like sleeping on gently rolling ground. And putting pressure on it could result in new hillocks and hummocks being suddenly precipitated. And what puts pressure on a sleeping pad? That’s right. Lying down on it. Pow! Oof! Not the best way to sleep.
So back to the Outdoor Store! My wife picked out a new pad that is the same width as my backpacker size, but it’s thicker. It’s nearly two inches, I think. Very luxurious. It’s light. It packs down very nicely. It has a sort of rubber-coated valve. We’ll see how that weathers. It’s already irretrievably dirty, after three campouts.
So my kids have inherited these giant old Therm-a-Rests but will no doubt want new ones one day… or, more likely, they’ll abscond with my day-glo pad and their mother’s new pad. After all, to the kids, there’s FOUR pads in the house and they’ll only need TWO. That’s easy math, right?
Someone kick that darned cat out of the cradle.
Everything you get in an outdoor store these days comes in a stuff sack, doesn’t it?
I mean, I got used to buying sleeping bags that came in their own nylon drawstring bags. You ram the sleeping bag down inside them randomly, so the stuffing in the bag doesn’t eventually line up and separate in weird stripes from repeated, organized, anal-retentive folding and rolling of the bag.
Disorganized, chaotic people like me LOVE those kinds of instructions.
Which is why I’m not as keen on my tent’s stuff sack. Only by carefully laying out, folding up, and properly rolling do you have any hope whatsoever of returning the tent to the bag it came in.
Back to the point- I’ve bought camp towels that came in stuff sacks, I’ve bought campstove gear which by it’s very nature cannot be stuffed down any smaller than it is, in a stuff sack- or at least in a nylon bag with a drawstring closure. Which counts as, I believe, a stuff sack. What else comes in stuff sacks? Sleeping pads, camp chairs, jackets, shirts, climbing harness, hats, throw rope, first aid kit, Christmas gifts from my brother, and… well, you’ll see, if you haven’t bought one lately yourself and have figured out what we’re talking about.
My oldest son needed to upgrade his sleeping bag. He had a sort of kids bag that wasn’t going to work well on Boy Scout trips. You could tell it was substandard because it didn’t come in a stuff sack. It came in some nylon clippy strappy thing with his name embroidered on it. Cool, but it’s not a stuff sack. So we got him a new one. It came with it’s own stuff sack, of course, but it was newer and better than the ones that came with my old Kelty bags- bought nearly twenty years ago now. It came with a compression sack. That, and the fact that it’s made out of some nano-age fabric that’s apparently spun from something so high-tech it’s almost air, means that it packs down to a size you can overlook in the big duffel bags I usually pack our gear into.
Impressed, I vow to buy compression sacks for our older sleeping bags and pack ’em down modern-style. So I went to get new stuff sacks. I got some high-tech looking things that my brother wouldn’t look silly owning, so I figured I was in the gold, here. Not so much. My bulky old sleeping bags strain at the tiny little cords that serve to compress the bags, so you’d pull on one side only to feel the other side go ‘Vvvip!’ and give way. Damn.
So when I saw a slightly lower-tech model at the Scout Shop, that was 2/3s the price and had big honkin’ nylon straps instead of fine little filament sized cord, I got that. Better. Much better.
Of course, by now, you’ve guessed what the stuff sacks were packaged in.
Yep. Their own stuff sacks. I have no idea what to do with them. Maybe I need to give tiny little Christmas gifts this year, wrapped in these little stuff sacks.
Okay, here’s the scene: College. Guys. Camping.
We’d have brought girlfriends if we’d had them, but it wouldn’t have gone well. You have to take things like clean and useful tents and stuff with you, when you have girlfriends along. You have to avoid doing things or apologize profusely for things that otherwise would be perfectly acceptable behavior on a camping trip. Such as, say, only bringing along by way of food, several boxes of Spep Oop. Lovely stuff, Spep Oop. It was on sale, and since we were college students and the camp that we’d chosen was hundreds of miles away, Spep Oop was our choice. Oh, and cheap beer.
So, why, you ask, would impoverished college guys drive so far to camp, spending money on gas instead of food? Surely there were closer places to camp? Surely there were, but we were colleging in Memphis. Memphis is pretty much in a river delta. That means flat and muddy, which might be okay if you were visiting from the mountains. “Oh, look dear, it’s all flat and muddy. Take a picture of me with the flat mud. Now let’s go to Beale street and Graceland.”
So we drove to a place that had hills. Hills and, therefore, valleys. Sometimes, as in the case of our chosen camping place, there were waterfalls that fell off the hill into the little valley. Nice for camping. We loved it.
You know who else loved it? Well, we’ll get to that.
So we sat up and talked and laughed and made a campfire and passed around the Spap Oop and drank a little beer. And then we were all tired from the drive and the setting up and the sound of the waterfall was lulling us to sleep.
When I say we were tired from the setting up, well, you need to know what sort of setting up there was. I had a nasty, tiny little pup tent. It was orange. It had aluminum poles and nylon cord holding it up. the whole thing had to be staked down and tied up. Fine.
My brother, an altogether more adept person, had tied a rope high across two trees and thrown a tarp over it. A few rocks held the tarp in a roughly tentoid shape. Then he tied his hammock under the rope and tarp. Nice, you see? (I tried this stunt another time without taking the low-ish temperature and a broken sleeping bag zipper into account. Whole ‘nother story)
Now, Ken is adept at other things. Being very entertaining is one. Planning ahead and carrying a lot of gear he has to haul around is NOT another. On this occasion, though, it all seemed to work out in his favor. Just underneath Jeff’s gently swinging backside (think ‘Hammock’, not whatever filth you just conjured up) Ken realized there was plenty of room for a whole other person to crawl in. He would have not only a nice tarp that someone else had put up for a roof, but the person who’d done the putting up would now also be a roof. Genius.
If you can see any flaw in this plan, then 1) you are not a college student who’s been drinking beer, and 2) you’re wrong about what’s about to go wrong anyhow.
The wind did not pick up and smack a tarp and attendant weighty rock into Ken’s face. It did not rain and allow him to discover that he was sleeping in a disused water channel. Jeff’s hammock did not come loose and precipitate Jeff onto Ken, doing them both hilarious injury.
No, you haven’t guessed what makes this a funny story yet because I haven’t given you a critical detail.
I haven’t given you the detail because I, in my ugly mildewy orange tent, didn’t have it.
What I did have was someone outside my tent saying “git” very persistently. And progressively louder.
“git” … “git” … “git” … “git” … “Git” … “Git” … “Git” … “Git” … “Git” … “Git” … “GIT” … “GIT” … “GIT” … “GIT” … “GIT” … “GIT” … “GIT” … “GIT”
Interspersed with all this “git”ing was the occasional “Ken” and “Ken, shut up.” and “Ken I will kill you.” but those were from me and didn’t really advance the conversation because all we could get out of Ken was “Git”.
‘Git’ is a rude name to call someone. Someone English that is, because we don’t use the term in the U.S. I don’t even know what it means, to be honest, but I’ve read it in books. You may have already figured out that Ken was not calling anyone a rude King’s English name. Don’t tell anyone else. We’re not to that part of the story yet.
There was a burst of noise- a swift rattle of pebbles or something, and all went quiet. For college guys, that’s problem solved.
Now, you and I know the problem wasn’t solved, it simply wasn’t revealed.
So in the morning, there was Spep Oop aaaaaaaaaaaaall over the ground past Ken’s feet. He had taken our last box of Spep Oop and flung it across the camping area sorta downhillish toward a cave that was not too far away.
Flung our food! All over the ground! Why?! These things were said to Ken in raised voices. As in “You flung our food! All over the ground! Why?!”
And here’s the big reveal. Remember that Ken was sleeping directly on the ground, sheltered only on two sides by tarp and by tree trunks near his head and feet. He was also, apparently, hugging the last box of Spep Oop. we had opened and nibbled at it, but it was breakfast, as far as our plans went.
The skunk that Ken woke to find staring him in the eye had different plans for it. Our plans changed when Ken found that skunks don’t speak “GIT” and finally just jettisoned the Spep Oop. The skunk’s plans didn’t change one bit.
The days when your scoutmaster told you to dig a trench toilet are OVER. There are many places now where you are expected to pack in your food and pack out your… not-food-any-more. There are good reasons to do this- mostly having to do with courtesy for the next people who will be camping where you’re camping now. That sort of reasoning seems to be losing traction these days, so let me re-phrase the situation as- YOU are the next people camping after someone else. You don’t want coyotes or rats or ants or other creatures waiting around the campsite when you get there, knowing there’ll be poo buried in a shallow grave when you wander off again. So unless YOU want to be the chimp that messes up the deal for everyone else (including yourself if you have plans to return to that campsite) you’ll play Good Camper and do what you oughtta.
Hm. That intro got out of hand.
But that’s part of the issue here! Everyone, especially small children, knows that the funniest thing on the planet is poop. Second funniest is other people making poop and third is other people dealing with poop. Actually, I may have that list reversed. Doesn’t matter. The subject causes giggles, then outright laughter and general hilarity. I have a good scuba story dealing with poop underwater, for example. Conversations about poop get out of hand and tend to go on a while.
So, how come there isn’t more literature on poop? Is it because of the indelicacy of the subject? The difficulty in using good and proper language when dealing with the subject?
Nuh-uh. For example, this review is for this here book:
See there? No trouble dealing with indelicate language, even in the title.
The book doesn’t even deal with generalized poop. No underwater scuba poop, no doggie doo, no daylight bombing raids around the chimp enclosure at the zoo. No, this book is entirely devoted to poop along a river, and more specifically, what happens when it’s been taken away from the river and has to be dealt with.
There are twelve chapters. Twelve. About Poop. Making it, carrying it in a boat, disposing of it properly, accidentally disposing of it horribly, horribly wrong and who had to pay the price. There are probably some countries where doody is not the secret shame of every man, woman and child. A buddy of mine has lived in India, where there are neighborhoods within which a far more cavalier attitude toward bodily function prevails. Apparently it makes for some sidewalk art that no one in the states is going to fund. No one.
The best chapter, and one that was repeated while I was on a Grand Canyon trip is ‘Mirage Of Poo’. Turns out that if you spill a river toilet out of the back of a truck across a steaming hot highway, it takes on the glassy appearance of a water mirage- at least to the bicyclists that are approaching. It also turns out that applying caliper brakes on your bike while in the middle of a large hot puddle of dookie, the brakes don’t work the way you’d like them to, and you… ahem… go down. at speed. I don’t say this as a spoiler to the book, and I can’t bring myself to say that I’m trying to ‘whet your appetite’ for the book. That’s nasty. I’m just saying… it’s a book about poo and it’s as funny as… a book about poo. River poo.
Plus! Plus! There’s a GLOSSARY in the back… in case you’re not a rafter (I’m not) and it has definitions to all the rafter-specific words used in the book. PLUS, there’s a whole page of EUPHEMISMS FOR POOP! Both words AND phrases! I note with dismay that my children’s favorite ‘Pop a squat’ (not that they are redneck trash, thank you) is not on there, but I’m sure you have a pencil for when you get a copy of the book for yourself. You can add it to the list. Freebie!
I bought a stack of copies of this book years ago, just to give to other paddlers as Christmas gifts. I can recommend you doing the same. It’s cool. I don’t have a trademark on the idea.
I’ll make it easy. You can shop the book HERE.
Good night and good poo.