One of the great things about camping is that it involves no housework. It takes ten minutes to set up a tent and toss duffle bags inside. At the end of the week, we shove all the clothes and beach towels into a big laundry bag, shake the dirt out of the tent, and put it all back in the car. The key, of course, is to pack very little for a camping trip. Whatever you pack will come home dirty, whether you used it or not, so it is important to pack only what you know you will use.
Packing light is an absolute necessity for us anyhow because our vehicle is so filled with kids that we have little room for anything else. We can pack for camp in about fifteen minutes: two tents, a duffle bag per person, a bag of beach towels and sunscreen, a backpack of books and journals, one plastic box of camping stuff, some old blankets, frisbees and balls, and an ice chest. The toughest part is making room for the guitar, which gets carefully balanced on top of everything else.
I have this theory that the more camping equipment people own, the less often they will actually go camping because taking a long time to pack and unpack is a pain. Seriously. I see this all the time – people who spend hours packing for a camping trip, even when they are going to a place that has bathrooms and a camp store and towns nearby. I have a friend, whom I love dearly, who grew up in the Big City Like No Other, who never went camping as a kid, and who has no idea how to pack for a camping trip. She will take a whole day to prepare for a weekend at a state park. When we went camping together one summer, we arrived at the place at the same time and took two adjoining sites. My kids and I set up our tent, tossed some old blankets and duffle bags inside, and were done in about ten minutes. Her family spent hours setting up a pop-up trailer, putting up some kind of screen house thing, putting a tablecloth on the picnic table (yes, a table cloth!), unloading plastic boxes of stuff, unfolding chairs. They had brought games, chairs, lanterns, firewood even. And at the end of the week, they spent hours again packing the stuff all up.
Of course, when I camp with friends like that, my teasing them about all the stuff they brought does not prevent me from happily using their chairs or eating their food or burning their firewood. I mean, if they took the time to pack the stuff, it might as well get used. And it’s fun once in a while to have the luxury camping experience.
One thing that slows my family down when we are packing for camp is my insistence that we should clean the house so that we can come back to a clean house. I mean, wouldn't it be nice after a week of camping to return to a house that didn't look like a bunch of teenagers had been partying all night? Sadly, no one in the house but my husband agrees with this theory, so packing for a trip involves a series of threats to get the kids to do some cleaning.
One time we were packing for a long trip, and I was wandering around the house, pointing out stuff that still needed to be cleaned, when I noticed the kids seemed to be taking bets. "I've got 9:36," I heard Boy in Black say.
"What’s going on?" I asked suspiciously.
He shrugged. "Oh, we are just taking bets as to what time Psycho Mom will arrive."
I rolled my eyes and ignored him, and continued my tour of the house. Shaggy Hair Boy still hadn’t cleaned the bathroom. The kids had packed their duffle bags and Spouse was out in the driveway piling everything into the car, but the house was nowhere near clean. Who was supposed to be doing the kitchen? And why was With-a-Why lolling on the couch, not doing anything?
Half an hour later, I took another quick run through the house and saw that nothing had been done. That's when I started screaming at all the kids. "I thought we were going to get an early start! How come none of you are doing your chores? Now we are going to be stuck driving during the nicest part of the day! Who was supposed to clean the kitchen? The bathroom is still a mess! DON'T ANY OF YOU WANT TO GO ON THIS TRIP?"
As I was ranting and raving, Boy in Black looked at his watch and grinned triumphantly. It was 9:37 am. "I got it within a minute!"