Recently, I have had the opportunity to attend a couple group camping trips. You all know as you do, that I love being outdoors, the deeper in the woods the better. But, recently I have found myself wondering about large group versus small group campouts and car camping versus car camping with a slimmed down amount of gear. The question is, does the gear do more then weigh us down? Is there an emotional tie one way or the other? Some people may need more comforts from home while others truly need the sense that they are not at home an need less creature comforts to feel comfortable while in the woods.
This is clear as mud, right? Good… lets carry on.
When I typically car camp… George (that’s my Jeep) is usually packed to the gills with gear. I have a lot of gear. Yes Scott… so do I, you’re proabably saying. No seriously, I have a lot of gear and I usualy bring extra’s of things for others who forget something or something breaks, “No worries I got one!”. I’m THAT GUY.
Plus in addition to being that guy, I am always bringing new gear to try, put through it’s paces and review. This is on top of the normal gear one needs on a camping trip with fifteen of your closest buds from you local hiking group. Lately, I got the feeling that with so much stuff I was constantly touching something, looking for something, wondering where I put something etc. This truly started to drive me almost insane. I was relishing in the ability to be backpacking instead of car camping where every ten minutes I was looking inside George for something, a knife, my headlamp, more beer, rope, more beer etc.
Having lots of stuff gave me almost more options to be doing something with something all the time. Being in the woods for me means doing nothing but being able to relish in the woods and soak it in. So, is the gear getting in the way? My mates would say hell no! As we collectively scarfed on 16 pounds of smoked ham that I smoked on one of these recent campouts. Damm that was good stuff. Yes, I brought my smoker car camping. I wouldn’t do it if the stuff I smoked didn’t taste soooo damn good.
I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy myself on this particular campout, but I will honestly say that these thoughts came into my mind which led to this post. Camping is not about the gear. It’s about nature, escaping, friends and or family and reconnecting with yourself. No matter what gets in the way of that goal, in my opinion needs to re-evaluated if it hampers your ability to feel how you want to feel when you’re outside.
I paused on writing this post right after this particular trip because I wanted to see how I would do with a new thoughtout perspective on an upcoming one night trip. So, a few weeks ago I did attended a simple one night trip. While the weather was less then favorable, I did have a good time. While I downsized the “stuff” (for lack of a better term) I still don’t feel that given the time I was camping the gear met the trip.
Awareness of the somewhat emotional weight of gear and how it can impact me and my camping experience was now more present in mind as I gathered my gear and prepared for my night away. On this particular trip I hammocked versus tented. However, on this trip I still fell into some but not all of my habits that caused some internal strife once I arrived. I hate messing with gear or searching for things versus enjoying the moment. While I admit I did less searching and messing, that may have to do with the weather conditions and the time of the trip versus the previous three night four day excursion.
In addition to gear weight and how it impacts your trip, the other element that can have a positive or potentially negative impact on your camping experience is the number of people in your group. Small groups, who are like minded, are safer bets, especially if you are familiar and have similar skill levels. The larger the group the odds grow of potential differences in personalities, experience, skill and knowledge level. While most of the time these differences are subtle they have virtually little or no impact on you or your camping experience.
So in closing, maybe you don’t resonate with these issues but if you do, be aware of how group dynamics and gear impact you before you head out. Having an understanding of these things will ensure that you can fully enjoy each and every outdoor experience.
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