Friday, August 8, 2014

A Camping Convert

I didn't grow up camping. The story of why includes my mom, rain, and sleeping in a Pinto. My husband also didn't grow up camping but, like most men (yes, I'm stereotyping), loves it. He also likes survival shows and seems to salivate at the thought of being dropped in the middle of the wilderness with nothing but a pocket knife. 

Needless to say our differing views on the topic have not led to many successful camping trips. Not that they were awful, they just weren't vacation material. When asked whether I'd like to go camping or to Hawaii I would answer...wait, is that even a question?

So why am I writing a post on the topic? A few reasons. First, camping is just about the most frugal vacation you can take. As a frugal fanatic I need to give camping a second (and third, and fourth) chance. Heck, I probably need to become camping's poster child.

Second, on our most recent camping trip I did all of the packing and discovered one of the keys to a successful trip: organization. Having everything we needed and knowing where it was made such a difference. No more digging through the dark recesses of duffel bags praying that we'd remembered matches. Or soap. Or sunscreen. Everything was on a packing list and organized into large, clear-sided Rubbermaid tubs. 

Am I Type A? You betcha. Oh, and I should mention that we're most certainly talking about car camping here. No toting all this stuff on a backpacking trip. Not that I know (or most likely will ever know) anything about backpacking. So help me God.

With our car packed so full that our two-year-old thought he was in a pillow fort, we headed off to Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Although only an hour and a half drive due west from Napa, we felt a million miles away as we parked in front of our cabin at the Madrone campground (our two-person tent no longer accommodates our family of four). As far as our eyes could see, tall redwoods reached out and touched the sky. I could feel my whole body relaxing as we unpacked the car, opened a bottle of wine and started on dinner. 

The next few days were pure bliss. Well, as much pure bliss as is possible with two kids under the age of three. We hiked (there is a paved trail in the park, perfect for little ones), went to a kid-friendly beach on Tamales Bay (Heart's Desire Beach), ate lots of smores, and enjoyed a Cowgirl Creamery lunch in Point Reyes Station. Most importantly, we had the satisfaction of watching our two-year-old fall in love with the great outdoors.

I'll be honest. It took me a week to get packed for our trip, but it was so worth it. At the end of the process I not only had everything we needed for our trip to the redwoods, but three pre-packed tubs (cooking, camping gear, and hygiene) that will always be at the ready in our garage. The next time we venture out into the wilderness the packing process will be easy-peasy. So easy-peasy I might even be looking forward to our next trip.

Planning your next camping trip? Download my mother-of-all camping packing list. Most of the items came from our linen closet and kitchen, thrift stores, and a last-minute Walmart run. See something missing, have your own camping tips, or a suggestion on where we should go next? Please share in the comments.