Camping survival guide for unhappy campers

I’ve been married for just over 9 months now and so far it’s been really awesome. 10/10 would recommend. The one downside to marriage is that you no longer get to do just what you want to do anymore. Apparently you have to ‘compromise’. I do vaguely remember reading this in a book before I got married, but it turns out ‘compromise’ actually means ‘go camping with your husband’s family at Easter’.

Now, I’ve listened to hours of analysis of the Utah Jazz’s recent performance and playoff chances (sadly they got eliminated in round 2, even more sadly that’s not the end of NBA games being broadcast into my living room – turns out sports fans enjoy watching games even when their team isn’t even competing?). I even once sat through the first 15 minutes of a James Bond film. But going camping really pushed me to my compromising limits.

Did I expect to hate it? Yes. Did I end up hating it as much as I expected to? No.

I hated it much more.

The good news is that now that I’ve been once I know what to expect and how to survive. Here’s what I learned about camping as an unhappy camper.

Be realistic (aka prepared for the worst)

Thinking positively about situations you’re not entirely comfortable with is great advice (and something I should’ve done a lot more of in the lead up to this trip), but it’s dangerous to let positive thinking cross over into unrealistic thinking. It’s important to have a realistic expectations so you’re adequately prepared for the not-so-nice aspects of the camping experience.

Here are some of things you should be prepared for when you go camping:

  • You will be tired – sleeping on a slightly padded mattress under what is little more than a glorified tarp doesn’t lend itself to good sleep quality
  • You will be hot or cold the whole time – with no ‘inside’ to escape to, whatever the weather is outside is what you’ll have to accept
  • You will be dusty – don’t make the mistake I made of buying really cute glittery pink gumboots; within an hour they’ll be so dusty you can’t see the sparkles and they’ll stay that way for the remainder of the camping trip
  • You will drink lots of tea – this was the one big positive of camping for me: with little else to do (apparently the main activity of camping is just sitting around outside?) I spent four days straight drinking tea and reading books

Know what to bring and what to leave behind

Whip out your paper and pens people because you’re going to want to start taking notes here.

Definitely bring:

  • Comfortable clothing – You’ll be spending the bulk of your time sitting around in a caravan park so this is one of those very rare cases where I would urge comfort over style. In these extreme conditions, even jeans fall in the uncomfortable category – you’re going to want activewear, track pants, sport shorts, or any other garment without seams or pokey bits.
  • Lots of books – As I mentioned above, I did a lot of tea drinking and book reading so leave the kayaks, paddle boards and other outdoor adventuring paraphernalia at home (unless you’re into that…)
  • A comfortable chair – There’s no way to escape it: you’re going to spending most of your time sitting around outside. A comfortable chair is an absolute must – something with padding, a back high enough for you to rest your head, and ideally a fold out side table for your tea and snacks.
  • Thongs – If you’re staying at a caravan park you’ll be sharing the shower with hundreds of other people. Don’t risk it.

Leave at home:

  • Make up – I did pack a few make up items just in case, but I didn’t use any. When you’re spending the weekend in a holiday town you never plan to return to what do you care what people think of you?
  • Valuables – It’s pretty difficult to secure anything in a tent, especially if you’re staying in a caravan park where lots of people are walking by all the time. I brought my phone and that was about it – definitely leave the iPad or expensive jewellery at home.
  • Electronic devices – Apart from the security issue, it does seem a shame to go to all the trouble of camping to just be on your phone watching movies the whole weekend. Switching off from technology and having some solid reading time was actually reasonably enjoyable.

Don’t negotiate with extreme campers

There are some non-negotiables when it comes to camping that you should absolutely stand your ground on. Extreme campers will try to tell you that bringing a large padded or inflatable mattress is a luxury and that you don’t need a full size towel when one of those tiny microfibre ones can absorb three times their weight in water. You’ve got to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for yourself, so in my book an airbed is an absolute must.

Ignore anyone who tells you you’re actually ‘glamping’

Even worse than the extreme campers are the people who will try to tell you that what you’re doing is really ‘glamping’. “Oh, you’re staying at a caravan park? With running water? And real toilets? Near a town where you can buy basic amenities? Hahaha, oh how cute that you think you’re camping! Enjoy your glamping weekend!”

I’m sorry, but if I don’t even have electricity on my campsite to charge my phone and track my sleep (not that I needed an app to tell me it was rubbish the whole weekend), I am not glamping.

This is glamping:

Photo: Roderick Elime

This is what I was doing:



4 thoughts on “Camping survival guide for unhappy campers

  1. I read this Friday and enjoyed it so much that I actually came back today to have another look. I am very much into camping, but I totally feel your pain. x)


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