June 05, 2006

When we pack for camp

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!"

21 comments:

Bardiac said...

A towel and a toothbrush, right?

There's a fine balance, which I've never quite gotten right, between packing the minimum clothes you'll need and having too many, and being flexible enough for the unexpected.

Your theory makes PERFECT sense to me, and probably has corolaries to practically every fun activity.

Claire (YT) said...

I am the idiot camper-I take everything I could possibly need, and then some. But I'm never sorry, even though the packing sucks. The Attorney calls it "Princess Camping".

I am also Psycho Mom about the house. I HATE coming home to a dirty house. I won't. I'm in good company, I guess.

Mouse said...

We have a camper, but our camper is already ready to go at any point because it has its own stuff: blankets, pots, pans, towels, wash clothes,soaps, shampoos, evne toothbrushes. the only thing we really have to pack are our clothes, food, and, of course, the ice chest for beverages.

We do the whole tablecloth thing but really it only takes us 30-45 minutes to set up once we get there.

halloweenlover said...

I packed light before I had the dogs, but I guess it is a bit like kids, you worry that you'll forget something that they definitely need once you get there. I find myself checking and double checking dog food, toys, bowls, bed, etc.

I am trying to plan a camping trip now! Although I may bring extra cushions since I can't sleep on my back!

Oldman said...

Tablecloths don't count unless they have the weights attached to the corners...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

When we camp we're quick about it, usually because it's car camping with the kids & close to town. But when we go out to my husband's family's cabin, which is truly a cabin and over an hour drive from a grocery store -- look out! We always stop at the same grocery store before heading out, and we never make a list, and every last one of us buys exactly what we want w/o consulting the others, so we end up with 5 bags of potato chips and 10 bags of h-burger buns, etc. etc. Oh and about a billion boxes of shotgun shells. That's our ritual : )

Mona Buonanotte said...

Soon, very soon, my kids will start taking bets on when their very own Psycho Mom will arrive.

Yes. The house must be clean before you leave on vacation. MUST.

jo(e) said...

Halloweenlover: One trick I used to use in order to sleep comfortably on the floor of the tent when I was pregnant (and I've camped in every stage of preganncy) was to bring a regular pillow off my bed at home and sleep on top of it. It sounds like it would be too small, but it really isn't. I would lie so that my hips and shoulders were on the pillow, and use a duffle bag for my head.

Of course, it helps that I am a sound sleeper. I have given this tip to friends who are light sleepers, and they say it does not help them at all. Some people like air mattresses to keep them comfortable but air mattresses make me motion sick.

liz said...

Look! Up on the ceiling! It's PSYCHO MOM!!!!

peripateticpolarbear said...

So, did the arrival of psycho mom get them to move any faster?

jo(e) said...

PPB: No. No one is afraid of Psycho Mom. What happens is that I lose my temper, and then my husband says, "Oh, the house looks good enough," and we all just get in the car and leave. And once we pull out of the driveway, I forget about the messy house.

Then when we are on our way home, a week later, I am always saying to my husband hopefully, "We left the house clean, right? We are coming home to a clean house, right?"

And everyone in the car laughs.

So we end up cleaning the night we return. By then, the kids are motivated to clean so that they can go reconnect with their friends ....

cheesehead said...

At my house she's called Volcano Mom

suzanh said...

Ah, Psycho Mom - known here as Crazy Mom. My own alter ego.


I am vehemently not a camper, but reading your posts these past few days about the fun times you have camping makes me want to go. And then I realize who I am, and think, I'll just read more about camping.

I also have to have the house clean when we go out of town. It's just wrong otherwise.

Friday Mom said...

I'm all for packing light too. You don't need any more on the long anticipated camping trip than you do on the one done on the spur of the moment. That's the whole point of camping, as far as I'm concerned, to live simply.

I'm laughing at Psycho Mom. I've been known to show a version of that when on a trip...for me, though, the Psycho version shows up on the road when someone wants to stop...for.no.good.reason! :-)

jo(e) said...

For no good reason? But stopping to take a photo ... or get more food ... or climb over a fence to see what is behind it ... or to talk to a horse ... or buy tacky tourist things ... those are good reasons, right?

When I am on a road trip, I have a tendency to stop about every twenty minutes ... I cannot pass by a sign that says Scenic View.

Jenevieve said...

We stop often on road trips for the scenic views, too. But Whenever I drive with people other than my husband or my best friend, I go crazy because they need to go pee EVERY 30 MINUTES. Seriously, people! Hold it!

BeachMama said...

We haven't been camping in quite a few years, but when we used to go, I would be packed and ready to enjoy the nature, but Hubby (who used to camp solo) would bring anything and everything and complain the whole time. I now prefer the trips to the beach, less complaining no overnight stays (but, I would camp again in a minute if I could get Hubby to pack up)

ccw said...

I love your method of camping!

kate5kiwis said...

i *so* get you about the *psycho mom* thang.... too funny...

what is it about having to have a perfectly clean home to return to?? now, at least I have a reason to go camping... to relax after all that cleaning lol.

packing to go: i *have* to take mosquito repellent.

cloudscome said...

I am one of those Psycho moms too. It's nice to have kids that can laugh at it... or at least I should think it would be.

I just love to wake up in the morning and have a clean kitchen. I think I got that way sometime in my 30s when it actually WAS my kitchen...

rh said...

You are spot-on. Pack as light as possible. I would add "but no lighter."

However when heading out with my four kids and spouse we are one of those over-packing families. We laugh about it while doing it but we do it anyway.

What we've found helpful is to keep our camping supplies (pie irons, camp chairs, etc) in a plastic tub that we can just grab-and-go.

We may overpack but we don't spend hours doing it.