Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Nov. 22, 2006)
Get out! For months weve sweated, mowed the lawn,
intently watched radar images of the Caribbean, stockpiled plywood, hulked broken
tree limbs and debris to the curb, shopped for batteries, water and
Now its Floridas turn to play. Go ahead. Get out the tent, hang the
sleeping bags on the line, oil up the pan, were going camping.
Whats that you say? Campings not for me. Im not going to
sleep on the ground, cook over a fire or go without a shower for days.
Well, like anything else camping is what you make of it. You can take many
different approaches to what kind of camping you desire. Some campers
and backpackers go to the extreme preferring to cut the excess paper off of their
maps, trimming their toothbrush handles down to a stub, anything to cut down on
weight to enable all they need to survive to be carried upon their backs from
shelter to shelter, dried food and just enough water.
Maybe you have a secret yearning to canoe down a river and camp alongside the
riverbank, alone with no traffic sounds or phones. You may even relish a good
hearty storm, as I do.
But if this isnt your cup of tea then theres just the right kind of
camping getaway available including a little luxury. How about crisp linens and
gourmet meals? Cable TV? Plush or primitive there are countless alternatives for
getting away. These days, just about anything goes.
Lets take a look at alternatives. Consider renting an RV, pop-up camper or
how about sleeping in a tree house, camping cabin or luxury cabin. Fundamentally
camping offers families a time to get away from the stress of everyday life and an
opportunity to share this magical planet with our children.
Take a tour at MyFlorida.com and VisitFlorida.com. These Web sites offer a wide range of
suggestions for planning your holiday. There are tour companies specially designed
to offer the consumer the best of both worlds. Some of these packages include:
hotel accommodation, gourmet breakfast, transportation to the trail, meals provided
along your hike, transportation back to your accommodation where a massage and hot
sauna is waiting. Afterwards dress for a formal dining night out.
The skys the limit as long as you have a budget to match. In case your
budget is modest like most of us beware of trying to put together a budget camping
experience that ends up with tragic disappointment.
The most common mistake made is going to the local discount retail store to buy
cheap equipment so the family can try it out. Big mistake.
Your experience outdoors is doomed for failure from the start.
Dont be left out in the cold with inappropriate sleeping gear or feeling all
wet under a tent that didnt live up to your expectations of reasonable
shelter. Imagine this. Here you are in the middle of a National Forest. Its
raining, youve got two children held hostage inside of a leaking tent, wet
boots, wet clothing and someone has just spilled corn flakes and milk on the
sleeping bags. The tent is too low for anyone to stand upright. Your back is
killing you and youre wondering if youll ever have normal hearing
On one expedition I observed a comparable scene. I shouldnt say this was
comical, but perhaps a tragic comedy, it remained to be.
Wed driven all day and were relieved to arrive at our target campground. Our
reserved spot was back along a craggy, high rock ledge that led down to a beach a
hundred or so feet below. Although several hours of daylight were still promised,
shrouds of cool mist began to roll in from the sea, eventually obscuring the
We began to set up quickly and with practiced precision, secure our campsite. We
positioned the Jeep as a barrier between our campsite and the northerly direction
of the fiercest winds. In due course, we became completely isolated and enveloped
within thick, heavy clouds.
As night fell, an enormous storm rolled in from the sea and came upon us. The
winds raged, buffeting our tent all night. We snuggled down deeper within our
securely anchored, reputable tent, cuddled in well-tested sleeping bags, upon warm,
comfy self-inflating mats. We pretty much slept through the storm without a lot of
In the morning I awoke first. Id planned to put on a fresh pot of coffee
when I was met with a startling sight. The landscape was dotted with brightly
colored, soaking wet, imploded dome tents. Wet residents huddled around wet smoking
fires trying to warm themselves. These campers learned an excruciatingly, difficult
lesson that night one that all of you need to remember.
However necessary, however possible, even if you must borrow gear if required, do
not purchase off brand, local store special camping packages, simply cheaply made
gear unless you have no objections to getting fleeced and soaked resulting in a
poor quality, second-rate experience. Remember that tent, that thin shell of
material, is the only thing between you and the Great Outdoors. Lets take a
closer look at tents.
Tents: First decide what kind of experience you need. Do you want to spend a week
upon a primitive island roughing it or catching some zzzzs loafing in the
chaise lounge while the kids use the KOA pool?
Weight becomes your deciding factor in either case when choosing your equipment. A
5- to 7-pound tent is appropriate for backpacking onto an island. Whereas a 30
pound tent wouldnt be considered too heavy if youre offloading it from
your trunk directly to set-up.
Height also is a consideration. Are you planning on sliding into your sleeping bag
with just enough headroom to sit up and touch the gear loft or do you need 6 feet,
at least, headroom so you can make beds in the adjoining chambers of the main
tents compartment. Suggestion: You dont necessarily need the latest,
greatest design. Youll probably be just as comfortable with last
years design, which may be reduced considerably, better suiting your
There are several categories for tents: expedition, four season and convertible
tents, three season camping and backpacking tents, large family cabin and dome
tents, tarps and shelters. As you can detect by the categories, your three major
considerations are size, weight and weather.
The new improved dome tents are smaller and often lighter weight, and made of
rugged materials. They are easier on the back while backpacking and because of
their lower profile they are better able to withstand wind and rain.
Domes usually have the minimum of poles making them easier to set up. Cabin tents
offer stand-up headroom, near vertical walls, lots of ventilation enabling your
camping experience to resemble a vacation home.
We own two specifically designed tents. Our main base camp tent is the Eureka
Tetragon 9. It is 9 feet by 9 feet. It has two large mesh windows, one large mesh
front door and large mesh top vents. Our second tent is a three-season, adventure
backpacking dome, lightweight 6 pounds, 7 ounces, 7 feet by 7 feet floor dimension,
and 4 feet 4 inches center height, Eureka Tetragon 7. In addition to being
reasonably priced, it seems to withstand just about anything, although we
havent been snowed in with this one, as of yet.
Ask yourself, do you need to pay extra for a four-season tent or would you be just
as satisfied with a three-season tent, saving quite a few dollars?
There are some features you cant live without. Proper ventilation, front
door D-style opening, bathtub bottom design, double sealed seams and a fly that
shelters openings and windows.
Proper ventilation is obvious. A tent can weep to the degree that you
may believe its raining inside. Great ventilation is a must-have feature.
D-style door opening: Theres nothing worse than a trampled-down, mud-laden
door rolled up at the bottom of a tent opening.
A protective fly that extends out beyond the windows is necessary. Once more this
seems obvious but there are quite a few tents on the market that look
pretty with cute little overhangs when once sodden with water dump that
water directly into the windows. Pretty design does not compensate for practical
Before buying a tent do your research. Visit sites like backpacker.com. Read
the reviews. Study the specifications and have a good idea of how you will use this
shelter. Remember its all you will have between you and inclement
Tips Reseal all seams and give an extra coating of spray waterproofing
before your trip. Never pack a tent wet, if possible, dry it out as soon as
possible. A ground cloth will add years to protecting your investment. Go with a
reputable dealer. Discover deals online at numerous sports outlets, such as www.rei.com, www.campmor.com, and www.eurekatent.com.
Remember, the secret to enjoying your experience, Back to Nature, is first, be
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.