(A “rerun,” but since it’s the season for camping, I thought I’d repost)
Although I’m not what you would call an “avid outdoorsman,” I do like being outdoors. Weather permitting, I enjoy hiking, kayaking, skiing, walking, swimming, and the occasional curling match. But there’s one thing I can’t tolerate: camping.
My wife loves camping. All of my friends love camping. However, I can’t stand it. While everyone else thinks that it’s because I don’t like “being one” with nature (a phrase which always sort of creeps me out), it has a much simpler explanation: I don’t like to pretend I’m homeless. Nothing against the homeless, but millions of years of evolution tells me that living indoors is preferable to living outdoors, what with the roof and walls and whatnot.
Again, this has little to do with enjoying the outdoors. The Pacific Northwest has a bevy of beautiful, varied terrain from the mountains and volcanoes to the desert to caves to the ocean, and I’m not saying that just because I like the word “bevy.” There are thousands of inspiring natural features here, and I’ve enjoyed many of them. But really — there’s no need to live there. That’s why God made the Holiday Inn.
When you think about it, camping is more of a hassle than anything else. Have you ever taken a weekend camping trip? It takes a day to pack up and drive there (loading your gear into your trunk is like playing the world’s worst game of Tetris), sherpa-ing all the gear to a camping spot (“No, no…this piece of jagged, rock-hard dirt is far superior to that one close to the car…”), unpacking the gear, setting up camp, pitching the tents (and deciding which of the tent’s icky vinyl sides you would prefer stuck to your face by morning dew), all while allotting some time to be gnawed on by myriad gigantor woodland insects. You can enjoy maybe a day of nature, and you then have to pack up all the stuff you just brought there and go back home. It’s really an inefficient use of time.
Some people give the argument of, “But I love being out there with the elements…just me and nature…it’s so primal!” Really? Remember when our ancient ancestors lit their 100,000-watt propane lantern to hook up the propane flapjack griddle while they munched on their Ranch Bugles and played Angry Birds on their iPads next to the fire pit? Or when they put their GoreTex windbreaker on to settle into their padded folding chair next the ice chest and put microbrews in the chair’s cup holders? If you really want to experience nature, I want to see you plunk yourself in the middle of nowhere without equipment wearing just a loincloth, ok Squanto? We’ll see how well Mother Earth takes care of you.
Back to the issue of returning home. You’ve “enjoyed” your day of nature (which was comprised mostly of inhaling 8,000 cubic tons of campfire smoke, made worse by the fact that you’ve thrown every conceivable combination of plastic plates, cups, empty bottles, paper shards, and miscellaneous foodstuffs into just to amuse yourself), now you have to spend several hours putting the things you’ve just unpacked back into your car. And let me tell you, it’s going to fight going back in. Much like you just burgled a swap meet that sold only soiled, filthy, and unkempt items, somehow you now have three carloads-full of crap instead of one, because the woods apparently multiply your possessions while you sleep. (And when I say “sleep” in regards to camping, I mean “when my body is 400 degrees in the sleeping bag, my head is 12 degrees outside the sleeping bag, and the stump I’ve accidentally set the tent on is getting a little too friendly.”) And everything you cart back home – including you – is slathered with “camping smarm”: that campfire smoke/dried sweat/sticky hands/forest floor/insect spray/dirt layer of filth that’s coating you and everything you own. Once you’re home you have to take all your stuff back out of the car (which again has tripled, like some bad clown car of supplies), put it away again (campers must love mundane repetitiveness), and do the 12 loads of laundry it takes to get the camping smarm off your sleeping bags and clothes. I feel relaxed and rejuvenated already.
The way I see it, to camp is to do a phenomenal disservice to our ancestors. Can you imagine going back a thousand or a couple thousand years and telling the people frantically burrowing into the side of a hill for warmth, “I’ve got a house, bed, pillows, blankets, fridge-full of food, chairs, couches, and showers… But you know what? That’s not for me. I’m ‘outdoors-y.’” Good luck with that. After you recover from the punch in the face (or mace to the skull or blow-dart to the neck or whatever they did back then), you will then be offered up to their gods as a sacrifice to ward off extreme stupidity. The people that came before us worked really hard for us to not live outside. We should honor their spirit.