In the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, Rat is the most unpleasant character, someone who is rude, self-centered, and cynical. So it is disturbing how often I find myself agreeing with him.

(Pearls Before Swine)

Actually, I did go camping once. Just after we completed college, a group of a dozen friends spent a week on a beautiful, isolated stretch of beach in Sri Lanka. I had a lot of fun but part of the enjoyment for me was the novelty. Now it is a case of ‘been there, done that’ with no desire to repeat that experience, though some of my friends on that trip continued to enjoy going camping all their lives.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    The only times I’ve camped were on bicycle tours. Nothing like a day on the road to ensure a good kip.

    OT: Any of the local Aussies watching the World Cup semi-final in about 14 hours? It should be a cracker, impossible to call. Go Lionesses!

  2. says

    I’ve been camping once. It was alright. And it was really nice to just be out in nature for a few days. I’ll grant you, I was a bit more mobile back then (crutches/wheelchair combo), but I’d totally be down for another camping trip if there were a wheelchair-accessible site.

  3. Jörg says

    Camping as a child with my parents was a fun adventure. As an adult in the army, in cramped two-man tents in the mud, not so much.

  4. billseymour says

    And then there are those folks who park their RVs on hardstands in the woods, hook up their gas, electric and sewer, and call it “camping”. 😎

    I remember one time when my older cousin and I pitched a tent on a sandbar in the Missouri River and had us a good pot of boiled coffee.  (The trick, I learned, is to pour some cold water into the pot after you take it off the fire to settle the grounds.)  The next morning, we pulled in a trotline that we had set the night before and fried up some fish for breakfast.  That’s what I think of as camping.

  5. says

    There is camping and there is camping.

    A great way to sleep outdoors in a tent and sleeping bag is to book a campsite in an awesome place like North Cascades National Park, throw your gear in a backpack (the the gear must include a container that allows you to hang your food out of reach of bears) and hike in the mountains. Do a web search for ‘Cascade Pass Images’ and imagine spending time in that area.

    Not at all like putting a tent in your backyard.

  6. anat says

    I have had various kinds of camping experiences, under different conditions. In my childhood, my family went several times to camp on a beach in Israel -- the goal was to spend several days where we could easily access the water and spend entire days on the beach, without spending time in traffic on the way home and then back again the following day. Or a cheap substitute for a hotel near the beach, I suppose. The campgrounds had public restrooms and showers, fridge space one could rent, electric outlets at the camping spots. As a kid who liked being on the beach, swimming and snorkeling, this used to be the highlight of my summer.

    In my high school years, my school had us go on camping trips that lasted anywhere between 3 and 6 days. In most of them we hiked somewhere, set up simple tents, spent the night, then the next day we packed the tents up, took another hike, and then the bus got the tents to the next night’s stop. On other trips we had the tents up in one place and hiked each day somewhere else and came back to our camp site. Almost all of these trips involved campsites with public restrooms, and the majority (especially for the longer trips) had public showers.

    In recent years I have had several camping experiences in Washington state. The locales were beautiful, but the one thing that severely limits the length of time I am willing to stay in any of them is the absence of showers of any kind.

  7. John Morales says

    Most people would not see how frustrating such a non-committal response can be.
    Such a simple question!

    Were I whatever depicted horny pignosed creature asked the question, I’d seek clarification, such as “So is it ‘yes’ or is it ‘no’?”. No resolution in that strip.

  8. chigau (違う) says

    When I started living in tents and cooking on a camp-stove for work, camping stopped being fun.

  9. flex says

    I lost my taste for camping after my teenage years.

    I think the reason is that I didn’t really want to spend the preparation time.

    Our Boy Scout troop was all about camping. We went on two canoe trips a year, one 10-12 day summer backpacking trip, and we usually camped 2-3 times a year in a local farmer’s wood. I learned a lot of woodcraft, and a lot of other skills like first aid which have helped over the years. But I think the one lesson I learned the best was preparation.

    For example, after I left the service a friend of mine wanted to take a week backpacking along the Tennessee portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT). I hauled out my old backpack, the jungle boots I got in the service were well broken in, and talked to him about his preparation. He had never done any serious backpacking before. He had never carried the food he was going to eat for a week on his back. He had done day hikes, but never even an overnighter. So I told him what I had learned. About spending time learning how to carry a pack. How to tune the pack with 40 pounds in it, so you’ll probably be fine carrying more. How to break in and waterproof his boots. About how extra socks are really the only necessary clothes.

    He purchased new boots, and a new backpack. We discussed menus, and how while hiking you rarely wanted to eat lunch. He didn’t believe that. We discussed foot care, and what injuries can occur when you are unprepared for carrying a load over rough terrain.

    On the trip, the first thing that happened was that his boots were not properly broken in. So I pulled out the moleskin and helped him keep his blisters from preventing him from walking. Then he had the buckle on his pack too tight, so it broke. So I moved most of the supplies into my pack so he could continue until we had time to repair his buckle. It was one damned thing after another throughout the entire trip.

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the trip. But I realized that camping, even a simple overnight affair, requires foresight and preparation. Clearly for just an overnight jaunt, the preparation is less. Give me a pair of spare socks and a diner to go for breakfast and I’m set. But even then you should have a first aid kit, a signaling device, a backup source of food and fuel, etc. It’s possible to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but you have to know what sticks to use. Not all sticks will work. Then there are little tricks, like knowing that sumac wood contains an oil which can catch fire quickly, but also burns quick. Yet, how many people know how to identify sumac?

    In the end, the lessons I learned from camping have been very beneficial for my entire life. Not the woodcraft, but the lessons about planning ahead and thinking about what could go wrong. Those skills, learning to prepare for contingencies, are essential for living. I learned them because of camping. My wife teases me about how I’ll pre-drive a route using google-map street-view prior to driving anywhere new, but that’s the lesson of preparation.

    But, because I do so much of that in my day-to-day life, both for my job and at home, I no longer have any desire to do so as part of a vacation. These days I prefer to visit a natural vista, then retire to a hotel with a good restaurant and let other people worry about my comfort. As far as camping goes, I find that people remember if fondly but are often uncomfortable, itchy, smelly, and exhausted while they are doing it. It’s only after the hike is over that it seems like it was a good idea.

  10. says

    I did a considerable amount of camping in the Adirondack Mountains when I was younger, by both hiking and canoeing/kayaking (pro tip: camping via canoe/kayak means “good eats” when compared to carrying everything in on your back). I do love being outdoors and camping always meant “freedom” to me at that time.

    These days, although I still hike and kayak, I do not camp so much. I believe the primary reason is because now I own a house, so the “freedom” of sleeping in a tent is not nearly so alluring. Further, I do not find RV-style camping of much interest because we live in a fairly rural, wooded area, and it would be a down-grade. A lake in back of the house would be nice, but any water in the Adirondacks is synonymous with black flies in June, and that’s something of which I’ve more than had my fill.

  11. says

    BTW, if anyone does go camping in the Adirondacks (or similar northern forest woodlands), stuff your pockets with yellow birch bark you find along the trail (DON’T strip bark from white birch as you can kill it). Birch bark is among the best fire starters you can find in these areas. It was gold for us.

  12. StonedRanger says

    I sold my camping equipment about ten years ago. I got really tired of heading out to a secluded mountain lake and having to listen to people yell into their cell phones thereby treating everyone on the lake to choruses of ‘IM AT THE LAKE. NO, THE LAKE, IM AT THE LAKE all hours of the day and night. And then there are people who think its okay to blast music til 2 or 3 am keeping everyone else awake, or the gunfire because hey we are in the great outdoors, we might as well shoot up the camp ground. Never ceases to surprise me that as I get older, my tolerance for fools and their activities grows smaller and smaller.

  13. Silentbob says

    Much as he invites mockery, there are times Morales is simply beyond parody.

    I must admit defeat and allow #7 to stand as more absurd than any possible lampoon.

  14. John Morales says

    Silentbob, as usual, your comment is about me and about how you don’t get me.

    Nothing to say about the topic at hand, of course. Gotta be about me.

    (I get you, fanboi)

    Anyway. Regarding the camping thingy, I note that whenever I’ve gone camping, I’ve had a campfire. Good stuff, sitting by a campfire, enjoying the crepuscule.

    (Also, I slept in a tent in a sleeping bag over a tarp; none of this sleeping on the dirt stuff)

  15. John Morales says

    Holms, perhaps I’m not as easily primed as are regular people.

    (Freethought is not normal)

  16. sonofrojblake says

    Bit late to commenting here because I was away… camping.

    My shelves include a rubberised camo tarp, a goretex bivvi bag, a one man tent, a two man dome, a two man popup, a four man dome and a six-person family mansion, which kind of describes my progression through camping over the years.

    I’m very happy to camp in the UK, where the most dangerous creature you’re likely to encounter (apart from other people) is a mosquito. I can’t imagine going somewhere where bears are a realistic hazard.

    Also: this cartoon is so close, in concept and execution, to a Garfield cartoon from the eighties that it’s practically plagiarism. Three panels, where the enthusiast suggests camping and gets a sarcastic response, then the sarcastic one spends panel 2 listing the reasons camping sucks, then in panel 3 the enthusiast makes a weak defence, and the sarcastic one remembers another objection. Let’s be charitable and call it a cover version of a forty year old joke.

  17. says

    Congratulations. You’re a domesticated animal. You’ve made yourself into an indoor pet.
    Seriously, the reasons to go camping:
    Access to hiking trails early enough in the day to tackle long treks to places and views you can’t drive to.
    Morning in the woods--watching the natural world waking up, which brings a certain appreciation for the life forms that live there full time.
    Birds that don’t come anywhere near the city, some of which are crepuscular.
    Night skies away from the light pollution of the city. More stars than you can count and, with a little bit of equipment, galaxies and nebulae you won’t see from anywhere civilized.
    Granted, you need to avoid popular sites on the weekends, because people, but that just takes a little planning. Also, it’s getting harder to find places to camp that aren’t on fire, but again, planning.
    I will also admit that sleeping in a bag on an air mattress in a tent is less appealing as you get older (I’m in my sixties now), but there is plenty of equipment out there to stay pretty comfortable. Campers, trailers, etc. Not that I can afford it, but it’s out there.
    Just did three nights a couple of weeks ago. First time out in a few years, and I remembered why I always liked it. And who the hell sleeps in the dirt?

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @17: Are you also amused by the euphemism ‘lavatory’ (literally ‘washroom’, see Spanish lavar)?

  19. says

    It always seemed to me like logistics cosplay. I’ve always been organizing and fiddling and preparing stuff, so camping just seemed to me to be more unimportant work.

  20. flex says

    As I think on it, there may be another reason why camping doesn’t appeal to me as much as before.

    I now live in a fairly rural area with a good amount of wildlife. I’ve seen more nature from my windows then I ever did while spending all that time camping, canoeing, and backpacking. We see deer and turkeys daily. Then on occasion we see groundhogs, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and herons. As far as birds go, we see dozens of species simply by sitting still at the window. There is no need to escape to nature when it’s in our backyard. Yes, I know that many, maybe most, people do not have this privilege. For people who don’t I can appreciate that there may be a greater desire to go camping.

    About the only thing I do miss about camping is the stars. I’d forgotten about them until they were mentioned above. Getting away from the light pollution and seeing the milky way in its full glory is something I miss. My wife and I are planning a road trip out west in a few years, maybe we’ll find a secluded spot for a night where we can spend time looking at the stars.

  21. REBECCA WIESS says

    Lifelong camper here. Also about to turn 75, still sleeping in a tent. When my spouse and I met, we had nothing. So we got an old painter’s tarp for a tent and headed for the Washington wilderness coast. I’ve camped on the side of the road in Florida to watch an early Space Shuttle launch. I’ve had a bush pilot in Alaska drop us into bear country for a week. We brought in a cooler full of ice and buried it to preserve the ice in case we wanted to pack out any salmon at the end of the trip. First night out a bear dug up and shredded the cooler -- and we ate all the fish anyhow. At the beginning of covid we bought ten acres of steep, complicated, forested waterfront land, and camp there twice a month year round. In summer we sleep with just a bug screen between us and the great world, in winter it’s the heavy duty tent and sitting with a fire. Owls and eagles, deer and cougars are our company. We take friends whenever we can persuade someone to come with us, and that makes me realize how many habits and practices I have learned that make it easy for me, but not for a newbie. So I don’t take offense if this is not your thing -- but if it is and you are in Seattle, ring me up.

  22. sonofrojblake says

    I spent the night of my forty-fifth birthday on top of a mountain, with four friends. We hiked up in twilight, sat on the top as the sky turned to full night, and noted the glimmering lights of other groups of people on other, more touristy summits a few miles away. We were the only group on that particular top. We slept in bivvi bags under a perfectly clear sky. We woke, broke the midsummmer ice off our sleep mats, packed away our gear, and unpacked our speedflying wings. The ascent from the car to the summit took about three hours. The descent was a little over four minutes. It was about three and a half miles from where they did this:

  23. birgerjohansson says

    Flex @ 22
    Yes, having access to a sky without “light pollution” is a thing I really miss from my youth in a rural place , ten miles from the nearest town.
    A clear night without a moon you could see the Milky way and what seemed like a billion stars (although I have learned ‘only’ ca 3000 stars visible to the naked eye are in each hemisphere).

    Years of solar activity could provide unexpected displays of Aurora borealis that were breathtaking.

    But camping was generally ruined by clouds of mosquitos (and sandflies who could penetrate mosquito nets) unless you were out really early in spring.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    BTW men in countries with conscription generally get a dose of wintertime camping that ruins their taste for it. Brrr! (trembles)

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