Living Rough

I’m not talking about that cardboard-box-under-the-freeway lifestyle, but the camping thing.

Outside the Army — which is a whole ‘nother sort of camping — and excluding those “tent in the garden” escapades as a child (which I didn’t much care for either), I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually pitched a tent and lived outdoors for longer than overnight.

And on one of those occasions there was a horrendous thunderstorm which caused a miniature flood in the campground, soaking our bedding and all our clothes.  We ended up sleeping in the car — as it happens, a 1976 Alfa Romeo sedan, which was never anyone’s idea of spacious.

We left for home at dawn the next day and that evening, three hundred miles away from the campground, my buddy and I scored with a couple of sisters at the bar of the Sunnyside Hotel in Johannesburg (where they were spending the weekend, much more sensible) and bonked our brains out overnight.

And said bonking took place in complete privacy and seclusion in the girls’ hotel room — okay, maybe there wasn’t that much privacy between the four of us — but it’s still better than Doing The Deed under canvas, where a noisy conclusion usually brings a loud round of applause from the other campers (don’t ask me how I know this).

So articles like this one leave me completely unmoved:

Perhaps you’ve been put off by the horrific scenes at airports up and down the country and are thinking: ‘No, I don’t need that.’ Perhaps the cost-of-living crisis is making you question a pricey holiday overseas. Perhaps the sunny weather we’ve been having is an encouragement to stay put here in the UK.

And that’s where camping comes in: easy-going, affordable and, if you follow our guide, you’ll discover there’s still availability for this summer.

…all accompanied by pictures of lush landscapes with no sign of thunderstorms, ants, mosquitoes, sundry rodents, wild beasts or murderers, which are all part of actual camping nowadays.  And nary a toilet in sight, of course.

The whole outdoor thing has been much overrated, in my opinion.

I might think about having a small-ish RV to tour around and so on, which could be okay, but that’s not really camping, is it?  (More like taking your apartment for a spin in the countryside.)

And you still have to find a toilet somewhere.  And forget altogether those bus-sized elephants which look like the things rock bands tour in.

I can hear the catcalls now:  “Kim, your idea of roughing it is staying at a Holiday Inn Express.”

Guilty as charged.  Your opinions may vary.


  1. Wife and I did a 2 week 2,300 mile loop of all the western National Parks. I highly recommend the Class A Rock Band size RV for the trip. No check -in / out Daily at various questionable lodgings. No repacking. Easy access to a nice air conditioned space after a few hours of exploring in some 110 degree NP. No waiting in line at dodgy restaurants. and it only takes a few hours to acclimate to driving a bus.

    Only downsides — it’s somewhat pricey ( probably a bit more than total hotel and restaurants – all in ) and we managed to get 6 Mpg … and some of the tunnels were a tight fit. …. ooh …. and if there is a 60 MPH cross wind while traversing Monument Valley, it only adds to the excitement.

  2. Either you like camping or you don’t, there is no in between. You have to do it often to get good at it, like everything else in life. If you go to the organized places, like campgrounds, you’ll probably be disappointed because of “people” and rules, and those are the very things you want to get away from, that’s the whole point. Motorized “camping”? What’s the point? A lot of money and effort to have what you already have at home.

  3. Well, my wife agrees with Kim, her idea of “roughing it” it a 3 star or better hotel. My wallet well knows.
    Thanks, you may not borrow her.

  4. Camping is more of a young person’s game, for those under 50 in my case, I still have all of the gear, tent sleeping bag and great set of cast iron for cowboy cooking however bending over a campfire in my late 70’s is not gonna happen. My kids like the outdoors but in their 40’s and 50’s they don’t do the sleep outside anymore with their kids so I will probably give my seat to grandkids if they want it.

    Traveling with my wife we need decent accommodations, kind of up to date in good neighborhoods and I remember getting caught in the Texas Panhandle 30 years ago coming back from a ski trip when youngest daughter was 14 and we had to make do with an old 1920’s tourist court for the three of us and daughter could not believe we were in a Bates Motel type place, totally old and smelled funky but the sheets and towels were clean and the water was hot, sometimes that’s enough.

    1. > My kids like the outdoors but in their 40’s and 50’s they don’t do the sleep outside anymore with their kids

      I just turned 50 this year, and for the past five or six years I’ve gone camping with a tent big enough to stand up in, with enough floor space for two queen-size airbeds. I bring one, which puts me about a foot and a half off the ground and leaves lots of room all around. It needs AC to inflate and deflate, for which I have an inverter powered by an adapter I built that takes Ryobi power-tool battery packs. Throw a matching sleeping bag on top (maybe with a blanket underneath if it’ll get below 50) and you can sprawl out like you’re at home.

      Some of my other camping gear I’ve had for the better part of 40 years, going back to when I was a Boy Scout. My campstove should’ve been one of them, but the first one was wrecked by a n00b Scout after only a year or so and the second one just disappeared on me a few years ago. At least it gave me an excuse to finally upgrade to the model that runs on pump gas as well as Coleman fuel. (With a cheap adapter, it’ll also burn propane.)

  5. It occurs to me that if we could force John Kerry, Greta Thunberg and the rest of the eco-loons to go camping with a back pack, a block of pemmican, some bedding and a book of matches they might learn to appreciate modern civilization.

  6. I’m with Kim. My idea of “roughing it” is having to stay at a Hilton or Marriott because the InterCon(Intercontinental Hotel) is full… ‘Course I also spent two weeks every year in the woods with the FLARNG which pretty much cured me of tent living.

  7. C’mon Kim, have you gone over to the dark side….
    a Mercedes van (with CA plates FCS)!
    Well, it could be said that it is 3-(pointed) star accommodations – and I can’t imagine it not being equipped with a Porta-Potty.

  8. I tried to post a reply earlier but it somehow got lost in cyberspace. Back in the day (here we go again) the wife and I did the tent and sleeping bag thing because that was all we could afford. We did lots of exploring and discovered the fun of a leaky tent and leaky air mattress. As our finances improved we were able to stay in decent motels and travel in a reasonable level of comfort.

    I retired about 4 years ago and we decided that we wanted the freedom of a small – 18 ft – travel trailer- We made a couple of long (Oklahoma to the east coast and back) trips and enjoyed the run until Covid shot us down. My wife passed away last year and now I’m thinking about what I want to do next. I do enjoy the trailer life style and my lady friend enjoys it as well. I just turned 70 and I think about doing something wild and crazy like selling the trailer and buying a Can Am spyder bike. Lady friend says that she would be okay on the back of a bike like that so I’m trying to figure it out.

    My trailer has a nice king size bed, a small kitchen, air conditioning, and a bathroom with shower (always important). I don’t think that we can get two people into the shower but the bed is very comfortable even for a couple of old people.

    So I’m one of the guys who enjoys the camping life style.

  9. The Marine Corps cured me of any desire to camp, anywhere, ever. March 20 miles with about 200 guys you don’t know and wouldn’t like if you did, led by a right guide who is about 6 foot six and all legs. Of course my platoon is at the tail end of the column so we run and stop like a demented caterpillar the entire way.

    “You don’t need a sleeping bag. It won’t be that cold. Take one sweat shirt.” (No fool, I took two.) Dig shitters. Eat WWII surplus C rations that are about 25 years old. Sleep on some hard ground under a pup tent. It didn’t actually freeze, but I did.

    We all slept better knowing the drill instructors had packs full of foam and sleeping bags waiting for them, right?

    Eff camping, never again. We have civilization so I can enjoy my life.

  10. My father agreed with you Kim. He was in WWII, so he spent time in barracks, tents, fox holes and slit trenches. Then was captured during the Battle of the Bulge and spent four months in a German POW camp where the barracks was “warmed” by two small stoves.

    Me? I never saw the sense in going out an pitching a tent just for the sake of pitching a tent in the middle of nowhere. I’d have to have a damn good reason to do it, and have never come up with one.

  11. My favorite ‘description’ – ‘ I didn’t claw my way up the food chain
    so that I could go outside and live like I’m
    homeless, living on nuts and twigs !’

  12. We did the tent camping when young, now we pull a 24 ft travel trailer. A/C, our own bed, kitchen toilet and shower. Walk out the door in the morning and you’re immediately on the lake, bay, stream, mountain trail, etc. We love the outdoors but appreciate the ability to sleep in a clean bed and A/C. It’s a lifestyle thing and not for everyone.

  13. About ten years ago, my family and another went tent camping at a state park in southern Ohio. On the evening of our first day a group of loud and obnoxious partiers moved into one of the campsites nearby. I hate those kinds of people, because they care nothing about others. After all, we go camping to get away from the noise and stress. Well, those people brought loud music and loud partying into the woods. The park rangers even had to go over there a couple of times to try and tone it down, but to no avail. We decided that we were probably going to have to cut our outing short because of those assholes. However, succor came in an unexpected way.

    It was late. The kids were in their tents asleep and us adults were all sitting in lawn chairs around the fire-pit shooting the bull and drinking a few beers wondering if the party would eventually wind down and the idiots go to bed.

    Suddenly, my friend called out: “CAT!” “POLECAT!”

    And there, sauntering into the middle of our campsite, strode a skunk about the size of a large housecat.

    I called out: “Don’t anyone move! Don’t do anything sudden and we’ll be okay!”

    We all sat there quietly while mister skunk explored our campsite. My can of beer was sitting on the ground right next to my chair. Mister skunk walked right up and sniffed at it. Then he looked straight up at me as though to ask: “You got an extra one of those, mate?”. He walked around a little more. He checked out the cooler, then the fire-pit, and he even walked over to the entrance to one of the tents. (Luckily, the door was zipped shut.) Then, I guess he got bored and walked off into the woods. After his departure, we all laughed a bit, but mostly we breathed a sigh of relief. Ah, but things didn’t end there. You know where this is going don’t you.

    About 15 minutes later there was a loud shout from Camp Idiot. I heard a male voice cry out and then a chair being thrown! And suddenly – Fire in the hole! – followed by complete pandemonium!

    Even though we were upwind we still got a slight whiff of eau-de-skunk. Yep, they had done it. And mister skunk did what nobody else up to that point had been able to do. He cleared them all out! I’ve never seen a group decamp as fast as those idiots did. And just a short while later, the very slight eau-de-skunk had dissipated, and for the rest of our time there we enjoyed blessed peace and quiet. (Camp Idiot remained unoccupied for obvious reasons.)

    Mister skunk never returned, but all of us agreed that if he came back, we were going to offer him a beer.

    1. While I can see that you might be tempted to set out a bowl of Pabst, for some reason I think that the phrase “drunken skunk” could not end well for you.

      But then again, I’m not a zoologist.

  14. I burned out on tent camping by the time I was 10…my father would drag the family to various black powder shoots. After a match in February where it was a whopping 18 degrees F at night, my mother put her foot down…and we got an RV. Which is somewhat better. Warmer, at least.

    The big headache is that a good RV with all the bells and whistles is very expensive. A travel trailer is cheaper…provided that you already own a tow vehicle for it. Me? I’ve got a trailer parked at camp for the N-SSA matches, but hotel it for the Nationals (which are five days…I need a shower badly after two).

  15. That’s not a picture of a genuine English countryside. Not a single wind turbine in sight.

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