Living up in the mountains — particularly in the warmer summer months — a favorite activity for many is getting out and living in nature for a night or more. This is also known as camping.
It seems like anyone who is anyone does it. We invest in nice gear, hit up the popular, picturesque spots, and have a generally merry time doing so. However, some people aren’t the biggest fans of this outdoor activity. A good friend of mine actually made me see camping in a slightly different light recently. When a group of us were out in the middle of nowhere, underneath the night’s stars next to a warm campfire, she gave us a hot take on our situation.
“I just don’t get what the big deal is with camping,” she said. “We all work our asses off daily to own or rent a home, yet we spend all this money on equipment so we can go out for a weekend and pretend we’re homeless?”
The rest of us weren’t sure what to say. She had a point. When she broke it down like that, I must admit, camping does seem like a silly practice. We take the time and energy to invest in the right equipment, pack up our bags and find a spot we can rest our heads for the night that, most likely, will not be very comfortable.
South African comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah has a joke about this as well. He said that some of his friends are always inviting him camping.
They tell him how great it will be, that they’ll go out in nature with no power, no electricity, and they’ll have to go to the bathroom in a whole in the ground.
“Yeah, that was my life,” he said in a stand up routine. “That was me growing up. Do you know how hard I worked to never go camping again?”
I suppose Trevor also has a good point.
Camping has always been a way of life for me. Whether I was out on a school trip or with my family, spending a night in a tent felt like a tradition. I never questioned why we did this; I just joined in.
However, when my good friend, and Trevor Noah, brought up a downside to camping, I decided to look into the practice.
Sleeping outside in tent-like structures has been around since the start of humanity. But it became a pleasurable pastime in the late 1800s to early 1900s. That’s when people began to camp in forests, according to the National Forest Service. The organization credits the start of camping in this way: “Perhaps in response to often harsh and demanding working conditions, overcrowded city life, or a pervasive desire for a simpler existence, camping became a popular pastime.”
Rules and regulations for camping on federal land were first put into place in 1902, when it became clear that this trend was not going away. Today, we’ve come a long way from the early 1900s. Camping is intensely popular. The 2017 American Camper Report by the Outdoor Foundation stated that more than 40.5 million Americans, or 13.7 percent of the population over age 6, camped in 2016, totaling 587.2 million days. The report also states that adult participants spent an average of $546.41 on camping gear in 2016. From past reports, it looks like all of these numbers are growing.
Perhaps we’re overspending to participate in an activity that is far from glamorous (unless you’re glamping), but people love it. The American Camper Report listed words participants associate with camping, which include “escape,” “peace” and “happiness.” Those are good words to identify because they help explain why we participate in this activity. Being able to get close and truly intimate with nature is one of life’s greatest joys. Even if that means the bed isn’t particularly comfortable, the bugs are relentless and the food has some dirt on it.
It may sound cheesy, but for me, being out in the wilderness is heaven, and I’m going to continue to do it as long as my legs will take me there … even if I look homeless in the process.
Barbara thinks if you like to camp, you should camp. If you prefer the comfort of your own bed, then by all means, sleep in your own bed. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.