Five things camping has taught me … so far.

by Rebecca A. Watson on September 1, 2011

in California, holidays, optimism

So it’s Labor Day Weekend. Back where I come from that means the last days of summer. School will start and along with it, the trees change outfits. (Winter in disguise never looked so beautiful.)

Although things have changed — summer lasts through September and into October here, school starts in August and leaves don’t change in the fall — I still have a very Minnesotan way of celebrating Labor Day: take off Thursday, go camping and sit next to the water doing nothing until Monday.

This weekend marks our second annual Labor Day camping trip to Downieville: paradise on earth. (Trust me when I say this. I live in Santa Cruz.) No cell phone service. No Internet connections. Nothing but bliss.

Yeah. It's like that.

Although I grew up in the middle of nowhere amongst beautiful forests and lakes, I didn’t really get into camping until I moved into the city. (The grass is sometimes greener.) I would beg the people who liked to camp to take me with them, but it wasn’t until I moved to California that I was brought camping proper.

It’s only been about about 1.5 years since my first real camping trip, but I feel like I’ve learned a few basics every camper should know, whether it’s their first time or their fiftieth. (Refresher courses are good.)

1. Winter camping is cold.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise for the Minnesotan in me, but somehow I thought the romance of the words “winter camping” would keep me warm. Of course, being that I came from the north, my first real camping experience was winter camping and I thought it would be a walk in the park. (I mean c’mon! These Californian’s with their “rain” and their “winters.” P’shaw!)

Thankfully, it was with a man that I couldn’t (and still can’t) stop falling in love with.

sante n me in big sur

Not a bad January First, eh?

But for all the romantic moments, ocean discoveries and great views, I was happier inside the truck than out. I know. I’m supposed to be tough, but I’m not. I like sunny warm days where the most I’ll need to stay warm is a hoodie. I’ve adapted quickly — I was born to live in California.

So unless you’re camping in someone’s backyard and have somewhere warm to hang out, I recommend skipping the camping in December. Unless, you’re really hard core … or from north of Winnipeg.

2. All food tastes better when eating outside.

Perhaps it’s the fact that you have to build a fire to cook your food. Or that you don’t have all the conveniences of home. (Why do I always forget a good knife and cutting board?) There is something about the taste of that oatmeal, that sandwich, that burger that just can not be replicated when you’re at home.

sandwich camping

Or it could just be the view while you're eating.

So don’t sweat it when it comes to planning what you’re gonna eat when you get there. You can forage in the woods, grab a sandwich from the nearest store or just rummage through the cooler. It’s all gonna taste frickin’ dee-lish-us.

3. There is no sleeping in.

It doesn’t matter if you were up partying until 3 a.m. The birds don’t care if you didn’t get to your site until 1 a.m. and you had to set your tent up in the dark. You are going to wake up when the rest of nature does.

And that’s around 7 a.m., give or take.

You can try to avoid it, to ignore it. But the sun will rise and then your tent will be hotter than a New York subway in August. Brutal.

So just suck it up and get up when the birds do. The day will treat you well, the fresh air will take care of your fatigue and the lack of sleep will assure that you make it into your sleeping bag at a more decent hour the next night, thus preparing for the next day.

4. Peeing in the woods is awesome.

This one is more directed toward women, as most men I know are well aware of the radness that is marking your territory. Since I was a kid, really, I was fascinated with the fact that one could, in fact, pee somewhere other than a toilet.

But as I got older, women I knew were always looking for a bathroom, and so I thought perhaps I should be too.

Public Toilet

Uhhh ... no thanks. I'll stay outside.

While a toilet is nice when there’s other business to be taken care of, outdoor toilets are rarely pleasant. I’d much rather pee outside where it’s pretty, not at all claustrophobic and smells much more fresh. Plus the sun and wind on your exposed parts feels nice. And yeah, I kinda like making my mark in the woods.

5. No one locks their tent.

Even as an optimist who believes that all people are inherently good, this still amazes me. I’m aware that it isn’t really practical to lock one’s tent, but still! People leave all their gear out while they go frolic for the day. And I’ve never heard of anyone coming back to find their food, beer or expensive camping gear taken.


It”s a testament to the fact that people are, in fact, wonderful and respectful creatures. And it makes me eeeee!  with delight.

What has camping taught you? What am I missing in the youth of my camping life? Let me know in the comments. I’ve still got a few months left of camping this year, so I’m all ears!

Happy Labor Day to all of you in the States, and happy first weekend of September to the rest of you! May it be a wonderful time filled with fun, blessings and pie. Mmm … apple pie. Cheers!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

iain September 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I have done it all, even camped in snow for a weekend, yes it can be amazing.

Most peoples experience of camping over here is with a group of people, either with friends or at a festival, whatever your doing I always learnt that when camping you are in a community. like our ancestors we do it together, setting camp, getting food, keeping warm or just getting trashed its all done as a commumity, something we sadly miss at home these days.


Ms. Becca September 7, 2011 at 9:14 am

Community is a big part of camping, and we noticed that for sure this weekend. We were alone, but were invited to hang out with a lot of people. So many people are open and friendly when you’re sleeping outside!


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