I used to complain that the Wife brought everything but the kitchen sink on our camping trips. Now they have plastic sinks that fold up to a briefcase size; please don’t tell her. I knew camping had changed for good when a friend showed up with a solar powered blender for his afternoon smoothies.
Better Make Plans
Did you know you now need reservations for camping? If you didn’t know, you haven’t been to a campground. If you want to use a designated campground in a National Forest, chances are you’re not getting in without a reservation. ReserveAmerica.com is the service that handles most National Forest camp grounds in the country and if you want a spot, you better look them up. There is still dispersed, free camping in the National Forests and on BLM land but even those spots fill quickly on weekends during the summer. The days of loading up the family car and heading out at the spur of the moment are disappearing fast.
The gear has changed, thankfully for the better. No longer are we sleeping on the ground in leaky canvas pup tents and eating off of old Army surplus mess kits. Tents actually don’t leak anymore and can be set up in a matter of minutes. Portable tables, cookware, hammocks, tables and chairs are now more portable than ever and also durable, lightweight and affordable. No more trekking down to the local Army surplus store; you can get everything you need online at sites such as Stansport.com. Even going to the bathroom in the woods, taking a shower in your camp or just washing up for dinner has gotten so much easier with all the new gear these days.
In my day and boy does that make me sound old, North face was how we described the north side of a mountain and Gore-Tex wasn’t even in the vocabulary. We pretty much wore clothes in camp that should have been destined for the donation box at Goodwill. Now we have skin tight fabric blends instead of those itchy old pairs of long underwear and insect repellant, along with sunscreen is built into our fabrics. Everything is waterproof now-a-days (another term that makes me sound old) and when they call a light jacket a windbreaker, they really mean it now.
Remember Tang? If you don’t, you don’t know what you’re missing. In one of the best marketing campaigns tie-ins ever, the makers of Tang and the NASA space program were intrinsically linked for years. The stuff was a powdered orange drink that everybody and I do mean everybody had, not just at their campsite but in their kitchen as well. It was like Kool-Aid but without the flavor. Now we have way better options for drinks like solar powered mixed smoothies. With the advances in insulating materials our coolers keep ice so much longer we can bring just about anything we want. If you are backpacking, even the freeze-dried stuff is gourmet quality and the selections are endless.
Once my wife introduced me to air mattresses my camping life was good again. Not only does a queen size air mattress make your life so much better, but the portable battery operated pumps are the bomb. Then you have the sleeping bags. No longer do you have to sleep in a mummy bag or an old Army surplus cotton piece of crap. Sleeping bags are rated to keep you warm at temperatures we used to not even consider camping in. Plus, as we grow so do our bags. Oversized bags are awesome for those of us who need more room for tossing and turning, much less because of all that good food we had around the fire at dinnertime.
Where’s the Fire?
One of the biggest changes in camping is the fire bans we have to deal with lately. The U.S. has been experiencing more and bigger forest fires than ever. Along with these fires come fire bans which sometimes prohibit the old trusty campfire. Luckily camp stoves and LED lanterns have advanced to the point they are portable and easily fueled with propane or batteries allowing you have light and a cooking fire even during fire bans. Battery technology has also improved by leaps and bounds so you get way more power with way less battery. Not only is everything more efficient but the smaller space required to bring batteries, fuel and lighting along with cooking essentials and all our toys have made it easier to pack. That leaves more room in the truck for that kitchen sink. Please, don’t tell the Wife.