I did it. I went camping. It took me less than 15 minutes to put up the tent. The dinner I cooked on my nifty mini-stove was great. I built a great campfire and enjoyed sitting by it and reading my book using my head-light. By 8:45 p.m. it had been dark for two hours, I had read all I wanted to read, and I had enjoyed looking at the campfire and at the big moon above while sipping a mug of chamomille tea. I was tired and sleepy, and I figured it was time to go to sleep. I had selected a nearby state park because it was close to home, and it felt safe. The ranger made several rounds during the afternoon and evening, and there were lots of family groups camping nearby.
And so I went to bed at 8:45 p.m. That’s when I discovered that I didn’t fit my sleeping bag. I had selected my sleeping bag at the store the other day, and the clerk asked me how tall I was. Apparently the sleeping bag came in short, medium, and tall. She said the short one would fit someone up to 5’8″. I’m 5’6″, but I asked for the medium one anyway so I’d have a little extra length. I’m a firm believer in having “free feet” during sleep. She must have picked out the short one instead because it didn’t fit. When I got in the sleeping bag my toes were crammed into the bottom. And when I say they were crammed, I don’t mean they were simply snug. I mean it was doggoned uncomfortable! I knew immediately that I couldn’t sleep that way. Sometimes I can be annoyingly indecisive, and other times I KNOW what I have to do. This time was the latter. I knew there was no way to solve the sleeping bag issue before the next day. There were no nearby blankets to use in lieu of the sleeping bag, it was too cool to simply sleep on top of it, and the night was just beginning.
At 9:01 (16 minutes after I went to bed and discovered that the sleeping bag didn’t fit), I was in my car on the way home! Amazing how quickly one can take down the tent, re-pack the car and be off! Of course I didn’t repack everything neatly in their bags. I just stuffed it all in the car to be sorted, folded and stored away later. I dumped what was left of the bag of ice on the coals of the campfire, checked the area with my head-light, and left. I was home by ten o’clock.
Earlier in the evening, when I was sitting by the campfire, I had made a list of what I needed to do differently next time. The first venture is always the test experience – the time to find out what works and what doesn’t work. I loved my tent. It went up easily and quickly. No problem for one person. Apparently my trial run in my family room the previous evening had helped! I had remembered to bring a hammer for the stakes. I packed pretty well, anticipating what I would need. Next time I’ll bring a broom to sweep the area where the tent goes. All the campsites were surrounded by nut trees (walnuts?) and there were nuts all over the ground. A broom would have been great to clear and smooth out the area before pitching the tent. Another item to take next time is a comfortable camp chair. I brought two little fold-out chairs that I already had – one to sit on and one to prop up my feet. They’re great for a few minutes, but they’re uncomfortable for long periods of time. I would have loved being able to really stretch out and relax and be comfortable by the campfire. Little things – a potholder (a wad of paper towels was fine last night, but a potholder would have been better), a pot with a lid (so I don’t have to be concerned with insects getting into my food and water as they’re heating on the stove). And finally… despite the fact that I can be a wimp about not getting enough sleep, if the sleeping bag had fit, I would have stayed all night and slept okay. However, I think I might get one of those aerobeds — the ones that self-inflate. Since I’ll be doing mostly car camping, it won’t matter that they’re bulky, and if I can sleep well while camping, I’ll feel so much better. So I’m seriously considering adding an aerobed to my list of camping supplies.
Items that were useful/helpful: The head-light was wonderful. It was great for reading, walking to the bathhouse, and for doing things around the camp, and it was perfect to see in the dark as I pulled up the stakes and took down the tent as I prepared to go home. I adjusted it too tightly at first – resulting in a headache. I ended up making it so loose it kept slipping down – but no headache, so I kept it that way. Citronella candles and insect repellant – I had bought a citronella candle bucket that really helped with keeping mosquitoes away. The park is alongside a river, and so the mosquitoes and other insects were plentiful. That mini-stove – just love it! I used it to cook my dinner, and it heated the water for my chamomille tea in just a couple minutes.
So…first camping trip is now under my belt. I didn’t spend the night, but that is insignificant to me. I set up camp, cooked dinner, built a campfire, and did all the things that needed to be done. Most importantly, camping alone no longer intimidates me. It wasn’t scary. It was fun and relaxing. I’ll go again soon…maybe next weekend. It was nice being outside, and the campfire was wonderful. What IS there about a campfire that is so relaxing? The only improvement (other than a longer sleeping bag) would have been to have someone there with me.