How I Won at Camping

Jul 25, 2014

How I Won at Camping

I have a confession to make. Are you ready? OK, here goes…I am not much of a camper. Don’t get me wrong – I DO camp, but I am not what you’d call super stoked about the idea.

This is not an easy thing for me to admit – after all, I have spent over 40 years in and out of the bush; backpacking, car camping, canoe camping and of course, rafting. I’ve hiked sections of the Continental Divide, slept in a cave in Borneo, and floated the Grand Canyon.  I’ve even snow camped.  And on reflection, there is a sad commonality to these experiences: hour upon listless hour bundled in my sleeping bag praying to fall asleep.

Some people sleep like babies when they camp…me, I just whine like one.

I believe it started when I was a young teenager, with my dad, hiking in the Canadian Rockies. My father grew up in the mountains and was a fearless outdoorsman. One time, when returning to our camp after a day hike we found a young black bear rummaging through our camp. My dad grabbed the bear by the scruff (definitely not recommended), dragged him from our tent and tossed him into the bushes. The bear bolted and my dad went on with his day like nothing happened. I never acquired that fearlessness. Perhaps, like red hair or talent, it skips a generation. Whatever.

What I did acquire was a vivid imagination – one that kept me awake for hours at night contemplating the untold hordes of (imaginary) bears looming nearby, waiting for me to fall asleep. Every little noise was amplified in my mind; every chipmunk became a giant grizzly ready to rip through my Gossamer tent to gobble me up for a tasty midnight snack. Sleeplessness was not my worry. Deliciousness was.

Over the years, that nocturnal fear of bears faded into the night. I learned to calm my mind, close my eyes and block out those small noises (camping by a river definitely helps!). I also had kids of my own who looked to me for courage, and I was proud to be the brave one for them.

Camping on the Main Salmon River, Idaho

Now, you would think it would be all happy camping times from then on, but no.  As the creatures of my imagination lost their hold on me, they were replaced by what I’ll call the dearth of creature comforts. You see, no matter how calm my mind is, if my body can’t be comfortable, I will not sleep.

This isn’t just camping either. I can’t sleep on planes or in cars or just about anywhere that isn’t my own bed. And camping is—in my sleep-deprived opinion—often too hot, too cramped and way too lumpy. A half-inch Thinsulate pad and a mummy bag are not items of comfort – they are torture devices. So invariably, camping has become nights of tossing and turning until, well, it’s time to get up and make coffee.

So why do I bother camping at all? For me it has always been the cost of admission; the price I will pay to get to see the world’s most beautiful and remote places. So I am prepared to trade a few sleepless nights to have my days filled with awe. Again, for me, it’s a fair deal. And I was prepared to accept that exchange ad infinitum.  That was, until this past spring when I went on an overnight rafting trip on the Tuolumne River.

There, for the first time maybe EVER, I had an amazing night sleep while camping. I was in my tent by 9:30, out like a light by 10 and peacefully, blissfully asleep until 6 the next morning. And what made the difference? Was it the rushing river nearby? The cool night filled with stars? Sure they helped, but ultimately it was 3 inches of pure heaven in the form of a bright yellow AIRE Landing Pad that reinvented my camping experience.

AIRE Landing Pad

Firm yet cushy, just long enough and wide enough (78” x 30”), the self-inflating, waterproof pad combined with an O.A.R.S.-supplied sleep kit (pillow, sleeping bag and sheet), did something I never thought possible: it allowed me to sleep soundly all night and wake up feeling rested. In short, I finally won at camping!

While the AIRE Landing Pad is perfect for river trips with its built-in tie downs, and durable and waterproof PVC coating, I’m thinking this is also a car camper’s dream set up: strap a couple pads to the roof of your vehicle and once you’ve pitched your tent, slide them together and voila, a queen-sized snog nest for you and your significant other.

So, if you’re like me and think camping is akin to sleeping on a floor covered in Legos (in a creepy basement full of spiders), take my advice and give the AIRE Landing Pad a go.  You too might find it an uplifting experience – even if it is only by 3 inches.

 

 

Tony Gower
Tony is one of the many creative forces behind O.A.R.S. He has spent much of his life alternately plunging head-long into and fleeing from nature. He is currently living in Nelson, BC with his wife and two sons.
  • John Gower

    I so feel your pain, brother! Every camping trip for me starts with a first night or two from hell, followed by subsequent nights where I’m just too damn exhausted to not sleep. By about day 5 I’m sort of getting used to it. Your mattress recommendation will be thoroughly checked out – thank you!

  • julian rogers

    Great article. Well written and spot on. The AIRE pads make all the difference. I gave up camping, for the most part, for exactly the reasons the author noted. I’ve since camped twice with O.A.R.S. using the AIRE pads and had excellent sleep. We may get some for ourselves and forget how old we’ve gotten.