If you found yourself here please gather round my campfire and let me explain why we camp. For context, it’s December and our tent trailer has been packed up for too long. There is an emptiness left in my life since the last time we put away our gear and hitched up our little yellow tent trailer. If you’re new to camping I’d like to explain what it is exactly that I’m missing and why do people camp in the first place? Is it the skipped showers, mediocre food, bugs, and uncomfortable accommodations that I miss? Of course not. I miss the chasing adventures with my family.
Chasing Adventure Together for Cheap
Most of us get up and leave our families behind every day to work in a job where we must stifle our impulses and natural curiosities. This drives campers to value exploring, finding adventure, and enjoying revelry or relaxation together at the end of the day. These things take many forms, for example, without the trip to Rondout Valley campground in New York I would not have tasted the wonderful variety of handmade pierogies sold nearby. An argument can be made that the same things can be had while staying in a hotel. Prime destinations like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite certainly have beautiful hotels and most anywhere has a chain hotel at the nearest highway interchange.
Why Not Stay in a Hotel?
The early stages of camping can be a touch uncomfortable. On your first trip you might not have a good bed roll or realistic expectations of overnight temperatures. However, you will learn and you will gather better gear. Moreover, sleeping on the ground in tents is a gateway drug for lots of campers before they begin investing in pop up campers, trailers, and other RV’s. However, budget conscious tent campers more than anybody recognize that paying more to stay in a hotel requires sacrificing other life priorities or, more likely, accepting that we explore, adventure, revel, and relax together less often. Camping helps make the most of our resources and maximize our exploration, adventure. For those taking the next step by investing in some type of camper my post Should I Buy A Pop Up Camper discusses how you can weigh that expense against staying in hotels. Camping is always a better value when you are truly committed to heavy use of the RV’s and camping gear you gather.
I mentioned that I don’t miss the discomforts of camping. Those discomforts can happen but they aren’t necessary. Those who don’t camp or rarely camp may not enjoy it because they might be hot, cold, uncomfortable, or their food is bad. An inexperienced camper might assume camping is naturally uncomfortable. However, experienced campers don’t accept less comfort. Instead they make it a hobby to get out as often as possible while eliminating discomfort through experience, preparation, and good packing. Like leveling up a character in a video game campers enjoy gathering skills and gear to live comfortably in potentially inhospitable conditions.
Collecting good equipment is part of the joy of camping. However, frugality is is also important for buying gear. RV campers simply don’t need ultra light titanium cutlery. Those of us who rarely if ever go off grid don’t need our ice cold for a week. Similar value based decisions are made with bedding, cookware, backpacks, flashlights, knives, and axes. Whatever gear decisions are made it’s worth recognizing that our gear makes our camping more comfortable and collecting it is a satisfying part of why we camp.
We camp because it lets us spend more time together. We collect camping gear because it makes that time more comfortable. If you think you’re already maximizing the time you have available for adventure but you’re still staying in hotels by default… I challenge you to take more frugal camping vacations. Retiring earlier or with more savings will really open up your time for adventure.