An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, September 30, 2013

How this City Girl Survived a Weekend Camping Trip

Last Thursday I returned from a lovely three day vacation on Hilton Head Island, and on Friday I went on my very first camping trip. Two extremes, to be sure, and I know you are wondering how I survived going from a luxurious Marriott Resort to a primitive Magellan tent. Did I bring my hair dryer? Did I have a bug encounter? What was up with the camp layout? How do you make a girly tent? Here are my thoughts on the whole experience  ...

Bia the camper?

Packing Light

For a camping trip? Yeah, right. If I learned anything this weekend it's this: packing for a trip to Europe is much, much simpler than packing for a camping trip. I mean, what do you pack for a European vacation? Clothes. What do you need for a campout? Everything.

I can't even begin to describe the stuff the guys brought. In addition to the traditional camping gear, they hauled huge tubs containing bungee cords, coils of rope, hatchets, mallets, hammers, cooking equipment, propane lanterns, extra batteries, knives, fishing gear, tarps, cots, tripods, and duct tape.

Basically, they bring the entire contents of their garages with them.

So much to pack!

Hair dryer, or no hair dryer?

I knew I was going camping, and while I knew the campsite had restrooms and shower facilities, I also knew that hot water was iffy and electricity was a definite no.

But in packing for the weekend, I struggled whether or not to bring a hair dryer because packing to go out of town without my hair dryer was unthinkable -- really, I couldn't even contemplate the idea. I even thought about bringing it for comfort, but I didn't want the guys to make fun of me for bringing something I couldn't even use. In the end, I painfully set it aside and left home without it.


Later that afternoon I stopped at the Ranger Station to get my parking pass, and the park ranger showed me on a map where all the restrooms were located. Except she didn't call them restrooms, or even bathrooms. They were Comfort Stations.

"We call them Comfort Stations because they have hot water, shower facilities, electricity and outlets," she explains.

Electricity? Outlets? I thought about my hair dryer sitting at home on my bathroom counter.


Cooking is a man thing. Who knew?

The same guys who sit back and let us gals do all the cooking in the kitchen at home, magically step forward and prepare meals at a campsite. Evidently cooking outdoors is a manly occupation, and I must say it was nice sitting back and watching my dad and brother cook us eggs and bacon, grill hot dogs over an open flame, make S'mores, set the table, and boil water for coffee. They even washed the dishes.

Nonno cooking eggs & bacon for breakfast.

My brother, David, getting reading to grill hot dogs.

Sleeping Outdoors

It sounds romantic, and in my romantic little heart I had visions of star gazing, listening to the crickets chirping, and falling asleep to the music of  rustling leaves.

But to have rustling leaves you need a gentle breeze, and what we had instead was a gale force wind which blew from every direction. So, I spent two nights huddled in my tent praying that A) the tent wouldn't blow away, B) a tree wouldn't fall on us, and C) I wouldn't need to go to the bathroom because there was no way I was walking to the camp restroom Comfort Station in the dark with a howling wind.

Honestly, answer me this: Does anyone ever wake up well-rested after sleeping outdoors? Does anyone ever emerge from their tent in the morning, smile hugely and exclaim, "Wow. That was the best night's sleep I've had in a long time!"?

Or, do most people emerge from their tents in the morning groaning and bleary-eyed, looking like death warmed over? Because that was our experience ... both mornings.

In all fairness to Nonno ...

I knew my tent wasn't going anywhere; after all, Nonno had erected it. (Do you erect a tent, or pitch a tent?) Still, that was some wind.

But I did wonder about our camp layout. Four tents, near the shoreline, and my tent was the first one that an intruder/animal/ax murderer would encounter if they wandered into our campsite.

Was I the first line of defense, or set up to be the first victim thus allowing everyone else to escape?

My tent, complete with solar lanterns. Nonno called it the "girly tent".
See all the tents behind mine? Funny camp layout, if you ask me.

Creepy Crawlies

You know how some animals mark their territories with urine? Well, I marked my territory (i.e. the area around my tent) with a Maximum Strength Ant and Roach Spray. I wasn't taking any chances because all it would take was one bug -- just ONE -- to crawl into my sleeping bag and I would be so out of there.

What I didn't take into account were the flying insects that hit the side of my tent as they attempted to reach the light of my pretty Coleman lantern I was using to read. At first I wasn't bothered with the fluttering noises (I was, after all, safely zippered up inside) but when I heard a couple of hard thumps I started thinking ... bats. Could they be bats? Is that possible?

Don't tell me, I don't want to know. Sometimes ignorance can be a good thing.

Bia's tent ... no bugs allowed!

Camping = Work

Between pitching tents, blowing up air mattresses, assembling the cook stove, building a fire ... setting up a campsite takes half a day.

Packing up to go home, however, is even worse because everything you did two days ago now has to be done in reverse, including rolling up sleeping bags, deflating air mattresses, and carrying trash to the Dump Station.

 By the way, try saying "Dump Station" among a bunch of boys.

Then there is the tent. You have be very methodical in disassembling it so that stakes, ropes, tarp, and tent can be neatly rolled and stored into the teeny, tiny carrying case that came with it. And if you fold the tent the wrong way, it won't fit in the case and you then have to start all over again.

Really, no wonder I got home Sunday afternoon and fell asleep on the couch just like that. Between two sleepless nights and all that work, I was exhausted.

Eau de Wood Smoke

On the way home from our camping adventure I stopped to get the bambino a hamburger (evidently a breakfast of S'mores is not filling). As I was paying, the cashier asked if we had been burning leaves because we smelled so very good ... like a campfire.

So, ladies. Shun the perfume counter. All you have to do is stand downwind from a campfire. Not only will you smell good (and earthy), but the smell lingers longer than you would think possible (two days later, and I swear I still smell like a campfire).

When camping, it's perfectly okay to have S'mores for breakfast.

Some Last Thoughts

First of all, thanks to all my blogging and Facebook friends who messaged me Sunday evening wondering if I was still alive.

Well, not only did I survive, but I persevered! I could have come home Saturday night (and believe me, the temptation was there), but I was determined to see this through, and I did!

Will I ever do it again? Perhaps. One day. Not too soon, though.

But in all honesty, do you have to sleep overnight in the woods to call it camping? Can't I do all the camping stuff without sleeping in a tent?

Better yet, give me a log cabin. That's rustic enough to count as camping. Yes? No?

Finally ... A Confession

I need to explain something. Since my husband and I had just spent three days on Hilton Head Island, and since he had to leave on a business trip early this morning (and thus needed to sleep well), Joe opted out of the overnight camping. But he and Nonna did come up on Saturday with some reinforcements ... you know, fried chicken.

And here's where my confession comes in. When Joe came up, part of those reinforcements included my hair dryer and my round, boar bristle hair brush.

Comfort Stations ... what can I say?

Bia, the  City Girl Who Conquered Camping


tiziana said...

Ciao Bia, ho letto con attenzione il tuo bellissimo blog e ho capito che quella vita avventurosa, all'aria aperta, in lotta con le forze della natura......NON FA PER ME!!!
Se poi penso a tutte le cose che si devono lavare e mettere al loro posto
quando si torna a casa...AIUTOOO!!!

Ray V. said...

Great thankful you didn't camp out on would be covered in sand flea bites.

Ua said...

So very well put, Bia. I agree with you - can't we go camping just for the DAY?

Maria (also Bia) said...

Tizi, E` stato propio una bella avventura, pero basta. Mai piu.

Ray, If we're going to HHI, we're going in style :-)