Back to Nature (Published on - June 15, 2005)
C’mon in – camping is comfy for baby boomers
Photo by Rick Tremmel
Baby Boomers take to camping in style and comfort.
Natural landscape is disappearing at an alarming rate as pastoral farmlands are transformed for commercial and real estate usage, undeveloped land parcels are being urbanized and beaches are converted as privately owned with little or no public access.

Shopping malls have trees and skylights, flora plantings, food courts, glitz and glitter, as well, hotels on the beach strip boast private outdoor pools and manicured gardens, but people are seeking refuge away from the lights, glitter, silk plants and bar stools.

Camping outdoors under the starry night sky, marshmallows on a stick around the warm glow of a cozy camp fire, and the scent of smoke in your hair and hot coffee warming the still, soft, gray morn is becoming a craze. Baby boomers are getting back to nature.

According to 2001 to 2002 market statistics, rising orders for RV’s have prompted RV manufacturers to hire additional workers, open new assembly lines, expand existing plants, and construct new facilities. RV’s are at a premium. Three season tent sales are up. While Sporting Goods Sales in general through chains fell 2.8 percent, technical lumbar packs grew 36 percent in units sold.

RV wholesale shipments increased 16.1 percent, tent sales fell 3.8 percent while three-season tents (62 percent of all tents sold) increased 11.8 percent.

Equipment sales, representing nearly half of total dollar sales in chains, were up 4.2 percent.

Daypacks increased 47 percent in units. Sports sandals were up 16 percent in units.

“But I haven’t been camping since my old Girl Scout days,” a friend recently shared. “I’m just not real sure what to do anymore or what we will need.”

“You need Camping 101,” I said with a smile. She grinned, “Well, write the column and send me a copy.”

Camping 101: What are the essentials? Shelter, Bedding, Cooking Equipment, Clean Water and Food Storage. Let’s briefly discuss Shelter and Bedding.

The first consideration: What kind of camping do you desire? Are you interested in backpacking into a remote location or for long distances? If so, weight is your primary concern. Backpackers are minimalists. Every inch and every ounce counts. Are you planning a family base camp? For how many?

How long? What time of year? Maybe you have a pickup and you’re planning to use the bed of the truck as “home”. Perhaps a pop-up tent trailer is an option. These are your most basic considerations and are priority when purchasing equipment.

Let’s assume for this trip the kids are coming along. Take a brief look at tents. Tents come in all sizes and are suited for variable weather situations. A family first outing will most likely be best suited in a 3-season tent with multiple rooms with a screened area.

Since families tend to set up in one area once, setup and breakdown time is not of prime consideration, as neither is weight. The family camper is looking for convenience, comfort, endurance and affordability. Your tent is not the place to scrimp on the budget. It’s the only thing between you and a summer thunderstorm or worse – hail, an unexpected snowfall or a barrage of mosquitoes.

Tents: Bathtub “seamless” bottom is best rather than seams contacting saturated ground.

It’s important that the “tent fly” covers most of the tent when in place for maximum protection.

Make certain the tent design allows for ample moisture venting so that you’re not awakening to an indoor pool in the morning.

The door of the tent should be D-Style not Roll-Down that eventually fills with dirt, water and tears from people tripping over it.

No matter what the manufacturer promises, always go over exposed seams with seam sealant for added protection against leaks.

Include a tarp and enough rope to stretch a tarp over the tent during really bad storms to protect from damaging debris falling upon the tent.

Bedding: Cots, foam and inflatable pads have been the essentials of the past, but inflatable mattresses of variable sizes are the new improved alternative for base camping.

Establish bedding needs based upon weather temperatures but while base camping with family also consider comfort. Traditionally sleeping bags were standard equipment, but soft flannel fitted sheets and a warm cuddly duvet might make for a more “comfortable”, like home, experience for a summer camp-out.

There is nothing anywhere written that deems a camping experience be one of “roughing it”. The goal of the experience is to be outdoors in nature and at peace with nature.

Over the next few weeks we’ll explore in-depth camping tips and purchasing equipment from buying a tent to purchasing a sleeping bag, how to build a great campfire, how to cook a gourmet meal on a propane stove, backpacking-lite, and where are some of the best places to go to help you encounter the camping craze while getting comfortable, back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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