The Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping…
…from someone who’s hardly ever been outdoors.
Some people will tell you that the great outdoors are a natural wonder, meant to be enjoyed by all of Vishnu’s creatures. They’re right, of course, but their assumption that you can just walk outside and have a good time is wildly off. In order to have a good time camping, it’s very important to observe some simple rules:
1. Only go hiking with people you like. This can roughly be translated into someone you’re friends with, or someone you’re f—— (er, engaging in sexual activity with). Let’s dissect the easy one first:
If two guys go camping, you’ll end up talking about incredibly important topics, like whether Jordan could have beaten Russell in their respective primes, or whether Aaron Eckhart, Laird Hamilton, and Evan Stone are all secretly estranged brothers (and by the way, if this were true, who would be considered the most successful…hmmm?).
You will begin to make Top 5 lists: Top 5 Desert Island Bands, Top 5 Books, Top 5 Girls You Wish You Still Had a Chance with from High School, Top 5 Former Friends of Yours Who Might Be Dead or Deported.
Camping with guys is great for dude time. You will come away feeling that as you age into adulthood, it’s amazing how friendship can be maintained just by having “one really great weekend.” As the kids say: no homo.
2. Going hiking with a girl is infinitely more complex. You’ll talk about a wider range of topics, usually including which of her friends she doesn’t like, and how she thinks this hiking experience is bringing you closer together. She will, without saying it, try to subtly prove to you that her hiking abilities are superior to those of your ex-girlfriend, the cute girl you just passed on the trail, and her former sorority sisters.
Unlike camping with a guy, you will probably argue over the correct amount of facial products to bring into the backcountry, and may eventually settle on this specific calculus: you, the male, will carry all the sleeping bags, tent, and cooking components. She will lug the various astringents, moisturizers, and cleansers absolutely necessary to maintain one’s skin while camping. Deal?
Because of the layered effect of time and male/female emotional relations, the great traditions of early couple-hood (the dispensing of pet names, the mutual respect of advanced qualities, the desire to please and looks one’s best) are both fun and potentially dangerous in a hiking environment.
With condensed personal space, the tension of inside jokes can easily build over the course of a three day hike. This can go one of two ways: humor or cutting personal attacks.
Humor is the preferable route. I once stayed at South Dakota’s Horsethief Lake, and by morning, I had comically renamed it “Blanket Thief Lake” to fairly good effect. See, girls loves jokes that aren’t really that funny, but instead make you seem nice, witty, and senstive. Think every movie Vince Vaughn has made since Swingers.
Cutting personal attacks (the perceived personal shortcomings inventory, the dissection of familial differences, the full frontal pet peeve assaults), while scientifically more interesting, can detract from the efficiency of the hike, potentially leading to dehydration, missed check points, and forced night hiking.
In the end, hiking with a girl, you will at least come away feeling that you are, quote, “much stronger than most other guys.” Also, with a member of the opposite sex, you will also be able to scare the animals at night. This is provided, of course, that the wolves don’t assume the coital ululations emanating from your tent are actually the death throes of some tasty, injured prey. If this happens, to quote Snatch, “you’re proper fucked.”
3. If you hike alone, you will end up seeming like the creepy guy who hikes alone. And there’s a 50% chance you actually are.
Solo hikers are either very fit, and unable to deign to normal human “needs” like rest and water, or suffer from a rare and undiagnosed form of Aspbergers. Either way, hiking alone has to be unsafe. In fact, I’m pretty sure that until a few years ago, hiking alone was virtually impossible. With the advent of iPods (20gb or greater), it has now acceptable in some circumstances.
Recently breaking up with a significant other, being rejected from more than three consecutive job interviews, or squelching on a sublet are all fairly legitimate reasons to hike alone. Others may point to the sense of calm and self-reliance that hiking alone provides. I guess. If you say so.
Be aware that solo hiking will give you a lot of time to compare yourself to people and go over your own personal neuroses. If you feel compelled to write about this experience, be aware that unless you’re Robert Pirsig, your craziness is probably not as interesting to others as you think it is (see: Winehouse, Amy).
However, don’t let me dissuade you. A lot of hobbies are best enjoyed alone, and not all of them will result in hairy palms. Solo joggers can speed up when they want to speed up. Solo photographers are beholden only to the whims of the sun and their willingness to wait for the perfect shot. Solo hikers can look at the jutting, rocky ascent of a positively unsafe route, and think, “I’ve gotten myself into this position, and only I can choose to overcome it, or bend to it.” In my experience, solo hikers rarely bend. Ever.
So, they got that going for them, which is nice.
4. Hiking at night is not worth it. You may think that you are achieving something by bringing a flashlight and getting a little more mileage done, but you are not. Hiking at night will scare you, and you’ll end up feeling stupid when you duck and cover from the sound of your carabinered water bottle slapping the fat of your thigh.
Intuitively, most people know that not all animals are nocturnal predators. In practice, you can convince yourself that chipmunks sprout poison sabertooths once the sun goes down. Night time is for rest and recovery, fire building, hot chocolate or light alcohol consumption, and preparation for List Making or Baby Making, depending on your chosen hiking partner (see numbers 1. and 2.).
5. Your tax dollars and admission fees have created some wildly lavish visitor lodges. Make use of them.
I remember walking into the new lodge on the Paradise side of Mount Rainier, my jaw slowly sliding toward my chest. The park ranger, made small under cathedral ceilings of aromatic timber and cantilevered wrought iron, asked me if I needed anything. “I’m looking for a 1 bedroom, but I’ll settle for a studio at the right price…” I reflexively replied, my voice trailing off, captivated by a 90 inch plasma screen showing wild flowers on an endless loop.
The Rainier lodge felt like a swanky singles bar shoehorned into a sexy ski hotel. Order a hot cocoa to go, and make it an Irish!
6. If you sleep with a blanket covering your face, it will taste like you’re chewing on farts when you wake up.
Simple as that.
That concludes Part 1 of my Top 12 Ways to Have a Good Time Camping. Check back next week for Part 2. And if anyone has some real advice, leave it below, or email me.
Here’s some bonus vertical pics to enjoy! Wahoooo!