Thursday, March 26, 2009

Camping not just for "nerdy families, nature geeks and Boy Scouts" any more

CNN says this:

With the economy in a slump, camping seems to be grabbing a new foothold in the travel industry. Once considered by many to be an activity for nerdy families, nature geeks and Boy Scouts, sleeping outside in a tent has become chic -- likely because it is so much cheaper than paying for a hotel room.

The activity also strikes a new chord with Americans who want to get back to basics after an era of excess and overspending.

Outdoor camping's popularity jumped 7.4 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to a report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. Overnight backpacking is up 18.5 percent, the report said.

Here's a response from an ex-Boy Scout nature geek who has a nerdy family that loves camping: "Huh?"

Camping is not an alternative to a hotel room. There are camping trips and then there are hotel trips. When we spend the weekend in the mountains, we camp. When we stay overnight in Denver or travel to Tucson for spring break, we stay in hotels. Campsites are notoriously scarce in Denver's LoDo. You could bring your tent and camp down by the river. But the neighbors may not suit you.

I should take umbrage at these camping johnny-come-latelys. However, umbrage is also in short supply during these tough economic times. So I welcome all these new campers, many of them bound for the wilds of Wyoming this summer. If Bernie Madoff and his diamond-encrusted Hummer pulled up next to our campsite in the Snowy Range, I wouldn't tell him to take a hike. I'd invite him on a hike. What better way to know a person than to guide him on a jaunt over a rocky trail that rises 3,000 feet in two miles? If he's made of stern (but not Bear-Stearns) stuff, he'll make it to the summit. When we arrive, we'll admire the view together. When he turns his back, I'll vamoose, leaving him there in solitude to ponder his many crimes. I'd go back a couple days later with some bread and water.

We kid Bernie.

While camping, you can leave behind all of those economic concerns. Some rookies may worry that they won't have enough money to buy the latest camping gear. Don't let that trouble you. My old pal Dave touts "celebrity camping." You and your friends pile into a jalopy and head for the hills. Reaching a vacant campsite, you back up the car, unload comfy chairs and the beer cooler, and proceed to get "as loaded as a celebrity." Come nightfall, you can throw your sleeping bag (if you remember it) by the fire (if you have the wherewithal to make one) and sleep the sleep of the contented. Or you can just pass out in your camp chair.

Most of us prefer a less minimalist aproach. Besides, we're too old for such foolishness. We car camp, sure, but we also bring the proper equipment. Here's a partial list: tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses, camp stove, matches, food, beverages, cooking utensils, eating utensils, clothes, ponchos, books, journals, bug spray, dog. Optional items include iPods, although they are usually allowed, otherwise there will be a constant mosquito-like whining in my ear from a 16-year-old.

Definitely not allowed on any camping trip: RV, TV, ATV, guns, fishing poles, other fancy stuff. I have nothing against fishing, but killing any fish or fowl will again bring torrents of teen vegan whining into my ears. I liked to fish when I was a kid but do that no more. Now camping is for cooking, hiking, watching wildlife, sleeping under the stars and conversation.

Spending time with my nerdy family -- that's what it's really all about.

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