Why Camp Allaire in December?
It is difficult for me to rate Allaire State Park because I’ve known it all my life. The house I grew up in is less than two miles away. Our parents took us there as children to see the historic village complete with operating railroad, blacksmith, wheelwright, and general store. So with some bias, I claim Allaire Village to be more engaging than many historic villages including nearby Batsto Village down in Wharton State Forest. However, the village did not bring me to Allaire this week. It was the allure of a campground open in December without any electric or water that brought me to Allaire State Park these past two nights.
I still live only ten miles from Allaire so this was neither an adventure nor a homecoming. What allure could this campground hold? When we bought our pop up camper I dreamed of trips to the most beautiful National Parks and remote locations our country has to offer. I quickly learned that many of the destinations I covet such as Acadia, the Smokey Mountains, and Shenandoah don’t offer electric and water hookups. All summer I had been tinkering with the camper. Adding a lithium battery, a demand water pump, and finally for Christmas I bought myself a Mr. Buddy Propane heater. Allaire State Park looked to be the most fitting place to test my capabilities and comfort for two days without electric or a water hookup.
Registration and Setup
I drove through the campground on Monday December 23 to see if everything was as I expected. I found the bathrooms and showers were open. No sites had electric or water hookups. The drinking water was turned off for winter. The playground was new enough to be plastic but old enough that the slides were sun bleached. No matter, at least three people forbid me from bringing my daughter on this cold weather camping trip. I immediately went to the office and booked the nights of December 26 and 27 at site 23 which was the correct distance from the bathrooms and a level site for my trailer.
December 26th was spent packing for the trip, not arriving to Allaire until about 3:00. I skipped registration for worry about the sun setting before camp was fully setup. A kind ranger drove up to post my permit. I was his last business for the day. He had been waiting on me to get the permit. I was the only camper that night. The temperature was dropping by the hour and I think this picture looks the right amount of cold for expected lows of around 40-45 degrees.
Overnight Light and Warmth
In the following pictures above you can see the blazing Coleman lantern that lights my site. In the background of the first picture you can see a campfire for the night’s entertainment and some outdoor warmth.
The Livin Lite Quicksilver 10.0 camper has a handy end table/shelf inside the door. On that shelf sits my new Mr. Buddy propane heater hooked up to the 20 lb tank you see there.
The Mr. Buddy heater has an oxygen depletion sensor and tip-over switch that make it more safe for use in enclosed spaces. What you can’t see in these photos is the carbon monoxide detector on the counter next to my bed. I had no intention of dying that night. With three precautions in place (oxygen depletion sensor, opened windows, and CO detector) I slept with only a little worry this would be my last camping trip. I kept the heater running generally at all times for two nights while i was in camp for the evening and overnight. The 20lb tank didn’t run out and still feels pretty heavy. My lantern burned until bedtime both nights as well without running out the bottle.
Beside the worry of silent death I found myself frustrated by the confines of my mummy bag. This was most severe just before sunrise when I began to wake and my tossing and turning was unhelpful in keeping out the 40 degree air. Going forward, since I am not significantly space or weight constrained I might bring a queen size down comforter or just lots of blankets. I’m leaving my mummy bag behind with the days of sleeping on the ground.
Cold weather camping without shore power didn’t impact my menu much. For breakfast I made a lazy hash of eggs, bacon, potatoes, onions, and peppers. You might notice everything is a little blackened. The pan temperature was too hot for the butter. Food always tastes better in camp so I figure I came out even on this breakfast.
Lunch was simple meal of pepperoni and cheese sandwiches and I don’t have photos to share. For dinner I made chicken with peppers and onions for some fireside fajitas. It was way too much food for one person but that didn’t stop me from eating it all.
Entertainment and Activities
A bluetooth mega-boom speaker let me hear podcasts while cooking and wandering around my site. I kept the speaker plugged in overnight and my phone only needed charging once. It was surprising how little I really needed the camper battery for electric. The mega-boom speaker was a luxury but I barely needed electric light or phone charging, so why not use it? The lithium battery held up well for the time I was out there. I still need to look into a battery management system to monitor charge level.
Playing podcasts and music all day would have consumed more power. Fortunately, I left camp and played three rounds of disc golf during my stay. If you haven’t tried the sport but enjoy hiking and the outdoors you’re missing out. Go buy a set of discs and try it. I’ll have to write an article about disc golf another time.
I set out to test whether I could be comfortable in cold weather without an electric hookup. I didn’t mention that I found a leak in my fresh water tank. The leak prevented me from testing my demand pump. It was disappointing but a small matter. The good news is that cold weather without electricity is not a significant hurdle to camping comfortably. There might be a Fall or Spring trip to Shenandoah or the Blue Ridge Mountains in my future.
Finally, thanks go out to my family and a disc golf buddy for stopping by. My silly winter camping experiment would have been much more boring without them.