I’ve done all varieties of camping over the years. I first went to “sleep away” camp in 1981, and had to pack up clothes, my sleeping bag, swimming gear and toiletries and “roughed it” at a local Girl Scout camp. I did this for three consecutive summers. We slept in frame shelters covered with canvas, which I *guess* you could call a tent – though they were kind of like primitive yurts. Here is what they looked like (this is the only pic I have of these things):
These shelters typically accommodated 4-5 people on metal cots with very, very “utilitarian” mattresses (maybe about three inches thick). This photo was taken at Camp O’Fair Winds near Lapeer, MI – which is now closed.
One Time At Girl Scout Camp…
In our “tents,” we had no electricity, and would sometimes have great fun playing “flashlight tag” on the tent ceiling (Pac Man was one of our favorite games). Sometimes after “lights out,” us girls would chat a bit into the night about…everything – and nothing. One of my tent-mates, Jennifer, felt compelled to talk about “the birds and the bees.” It was just talk – no demonstrations were given involving bananas, broom handles or fresh fruit! I have no idea why she felt compelled to take a turn as a sex ed teacher, but I’ll never, ever forget it!
After my initial Girl Scout camp experiences, I continued to go on tent camping trips probably about every year. I’ve camped in “modern” campgrounds with flush toilets, electricity, showers and running water – and in “rustic” campgrounds – without ANY of those things. Want water? You have to pump it into a jug! Have to go potty? Follow your nose and use the “vault” toilet. Want to take a shower? Unless you bring your own, you’re going to have to wait for one of those! You’re best off taking a “whore’s bath” with baby wipes until you can take a real shower!
Rustic camping also typically means “no electricity.” You’ll need to bring portable power sources for your devices, or car charging cords. Maybe you’re extra high-tech and fancy and have a solar charger of some sort!
Me on the North Country Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 2006. A good pack will typically have sleeves/pockets for stowing water bottles, loops for hooking ‘biners and straps for tightening the pack down as compactly as possible. Yes, there is an old rusted out car right along the trail…The sand flies on this trip were something ELSE! Repellent did not work on them – I had to wrap bandannas around my ankles to keep the buggers from biting me (they were getting me right through my thick wool socks). the bandannas worked on those “low fliers.” The bites are quite nasty – I had quite a few scabs after this trip!
Backpacking – The Most Primitive Camping of All…
And then there were those “beyond rustic” camping trips – aka “backpacking” trips. You haul in everything you’re going to need on your back – including your tent/stakes, clothing, sleeping gear and food. Keeping weight in your pack to a minimum is essential – your food will likely be freeze-dried or dehydrated, your cookware will NOT be cast iron, and your sleeping bag/tent will pack down as compact as possible. On the most rustic trips, you even have to bring a means of treating or filtering your own water that you gather from a stream or lake. I’ve drank water gathered from Lake Superior, the Big Carp River and Lake Michigan on backpacking trips. And never once did I catch Giardia! Water-borne illnesses are NOT something I would take risks with!
Camping with a “K” – AKA RV Adventures
Up until this past weekend, my most “posh” camping experience was when I stayed a couple of nights in my in-laws’ RV in 1998. We camped at a Corps of Engineers campground not far from Mammoth Cave National Park – my father-in-law was an Army veteran, and he got a sweet discount in Corps of Engineers’ camping facilities. It was summertime in Kentucky, so it got HOT! And when it got hot? We could turn on the A/C! My husband and I slept on a pull-out sofa bed in the living room – though I think we put the mattress on the floor because my feet hung off the edge too much #confessionsofbeingverticallyblessed.
It’s Still “Kind Of” Tent Camping – Pop-Up Camping
A few months ago, we learned that you can rent the use of pop-up campers at some Michigan state parks. My husband said his mom and dad used to have a pop-up so he was excited about it – and I’d never camped in one, so I was also excited! According to the Michigan DNR web site, these state parks offer pop-up camper rentals:
- North Higgins Lake State Park
- Charles Mears State Park
- Yankee Springs Recreation Area
- Hartwick Pines State Park
- Bay City State Park
My husband and I booked a weekend in Mears State Park’s rental pop-up camper, here are some exterior/interior pics:
We had a microwave, fridge and space heater. When we left Sunday morning, there was quite a lot of standing water underneath the trailer! Good thing we weren’t tent camping (oh lord)!
My husband and I both agreed that this was the best night’s sleep we ever had on a camping trip! We slept on nice, thick mattresses and we had plenty of room to stretch out (we slept on opposite sides of the camper so neither person would have to “crawl over” the other if nature called in the middle of the night). The electric space heater kept us warm, cozy and dry even during a rain downpour – and since we had electricity AND WiFi – we could stream movies on the laptop!
My only real complaint? The fridge smelled kind of “funky.” I should suggest the park rangers buy a box of baking soda to keep in there!