My wife and I have had a love/hate relationship with camping trips. I really enjoy camping, but she’s never had a really good experience with it.
Our first experience as a family was four years ago. We attended Kathy’s family reunion at Payson Lakes over the 4th of July weekend. The dirt at the campsite was super-dry and super-fine. We called it moondust … it got into EVERYTHING, and the kids were FILTHY. This was a super-drought year where the fire danger was so high that most campfires had been banned. The kind of firepits at our campsite were still approved, so we got lucky. The following weekend, authorities completely banned campfires of all kinds.
On that trip, Ben was about 8 months old. This was 5 months before he was diagnosed with type I diabetes. Mostly thanks to the drought-level heat, we were actually fairly comfortable at night. This campout lasted 4 days, and aside from trying to keep an infant clean and happy, was pretty fun.
Last summer, we had a smaller family campout, also at Payson Lakes. This one was one night on Labor Day Weekend. We had the same arrangement as the previous campout – a large tent, sleeping bags, with bedrolls for the kids and an air mattress for the adults. The moondust problem was gone, but it was *COLD* that night. I didn’t have any big problems, but Kathy was miserable. In hindsight she thinks she may have had a slight case of hypothermia. We also found that the amount of work required to set up and strike camp was simply not worth it for one night. We guessed that a minimum of 3 days would be required to make it worthwhile.
When we got back from the campout last summer, Kathy began planning a super ambitious camping trip for 2006. She was joined in the conspiracy by her sister and her mother. Those plans became reality two weeks ago. We had a HUGE get together (56 people, including 30 kids) for 5 days and 4 nights in Island Park. Island Park is a beautiful place in Idaho, about 20 miles south of West Yellowstone. Mostly it was Kathy’s family, but we also invited her friends, my friends, and oddly enough, my ex-wife and her new husband.
We had significantly upgraded our camping gear for this latest trip. We now have two tents, but the main upgrade was seven cots. The title of today’s post sums up my feelings about camping on a cot.
The campout was a major success in terms of comfort and fun. The only drawback, similar to last year, was the amount of work required to load and unload the car, as well as set up and strike camp. We packed so much gear that our van was nearly bursting. It took two solid days of planning and packing before we even left. Once we had camp set up, things were beautiful, but it took a huge amount of effort. Striking camp was also draining and time-consuming.
There were a lot of people who brought travel trailers to the campground, and we were rather envious. I’ve always wanted to own an RV, but have been deathly afraid of the cost, which always seemed to be in the neighborhood of $30000 or more for something good. There is also the problem of storing them, plus the amount of fuel required to drive a motorhome or tow a big trailer.
I knew there were “cheap” options available in the form of “popup” tent trailers, but always viewed those as flimsy, leaky, and hardly worth doing when we already had perfectly good tents and cots. Our ideas about tent trailers were radically altered when Kathy got a look inside her uncle’s unit and got to talking to him about it.
It turns out that every preconception we had about them was way off base. We have spent the last two weeks researching popup tent trailers, mostly trying to find something used and inexpensive. This has involved several trips around the valley to dealers and private sellers, comparing the problems and virtues of different models.
Today we put a deposit down on our first recreational vehicle. We already had a hitch installation scheduled for Monday, we will probably have the trailer by Wednesday.
In the end, we decided to buy new rather than used. It is a 2006 Flagstaff, made by Forest River. For the nitty gritty info, click here and go digging for model number 625D, which is one of their Classic Series. The monthly cost will likely be less than every car loan I’ve ever had, even the ones for the ones I had right after high school.
For Kathy’s perspective, see the her livejournal entry about it.