Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Plea for Help: Le Camping

Image courtesy of Toast via Poppytalk (cutout by Anne Taintor).

Calling all seasoned campers and outdoorsy-type persons, the AsianCajuns are going camping in a week and we are in desperate need of some camping advice.

This may shock you, gentle readers, but we, alas, are not intrepid outdoors-women. In fact I have a car-freshener that has a coiffed blond standing in front of a sky-scrapper with the words "I love not camping" floating above her head. And it means serious business if it's hanging from my rearview mirror.

Don't get us wrong. We enjoy that sharp, piny scent of sap in the morning, the smell of coffee brewing in the crisp autumn air, plumped marshmallows over a campfire, sunlight dappled through leaves, etc. But (and I think this is fair) the bad of camping seems to far out-weigh the good of camping: large (multi-legged and slithery) bugs, larger animals (the hungry ones with sharp claws and teeth), cold, hard, bumpy ground, limited lavatory options, lots of work with minimal pay-off, and, most importantly, very, very limited clothing options.

We are not comfortable in hiking boots, jeans and fleeces. I think many people look happy, athletic, and - well- practical in these sorts of outfits. Cath and I just feel out of character. In fact, we don't even own practical jeans or fleeces. And you can definitely forget about the hiking boots (motorcycle boots, yes).

We can do the boho thing or the neo-grunge thing, but will that work in an honest to goodness camp site (versus a well-lit and heated photoshoot)? Will shrunken-flannel shirts be sufficient protection against a frosty autumn evening? Are those hippie-chic maxi-dresses flammable around the campfire? Will those Urban Oufitter feather headbands just make us look like poor Pocahontas re-enactors?

We thought about breaking out of our comfort zone and heading to REI, but we realized the overpriced jackets and shoes we would buy would be our equivalent to a bridal gown- worn once and then banished to the back of our closets.

We beseech you. Any good advice you have for fashionistas in the woods (for just two days--- I know, we're weenies) would be much appreciated.

This is what we would have imagined camping to be like if we hadn't had previous (though limited) camping adventures:

Boyfriend washing hair in nearby stream. House-like tent where one can sit comfortably in a white dress and impractical boots, complete with cat and traveling type-writer. Boyfriend with picnic in the gently rolling hills of Kenya... oops! I mean North Carolina.

Photos from Out of Africa (stills) and Vogue.



Danika said...

Layers. I strongly advise layers, that's what usually gets me through camping. I suppose that depends on how warm it's going to be wherever you go... And unless you're going hiking, sneakers and warm socks should work just fine.

I'm not an outdoorsy girl at all, either, but but I live in the camping/hiking capital of America and I was a Girl Scout growing up, so I camped a ton. And I work at a summer camp too, ironically. I hope you guys have a good time!

Elizabeth said...

I am worthless on this front, as I detest camping and will go to any length to avoid it.

I hope you get all the help you need, though, and that you have fun. :D

LizBlair said...

I got a smile on my face from reading today's blog. Like the comment above, I too used to be a girl scout and somewhat outdoorsy as a kid, but in my middle age I prefer more comfortable accomodations.

I'm trying to think of some suggestions for you. It would be helpful to know the temperature. One thing that tends to happen this time of year is that it can be very warm in the day but cold at night. Don't wear sweaty clothes to bed, because you might feel a chill. If you need to buy a sleeping bag, buy one with the temperature range that you need (most sleeping bags have a tag that will tell you this.)

Hope you have a great time.

Angela said...

bf is trying to get us to go camping talking about his boy scout days. hav fun and let us know how it is....

this wheel's on fire said...

hhmmm...i'm not a big camper either. i LOVE the idea tho. layers are definately a good idea! have fun girls!! <3

Lisa said...

I used to go on a 5-day camping trip every year as part of my alternative high school curriculum (they stressed "outdoor adventure" and "environmental stewardship").

1. Invest in a sleeping pad if you don't already have one. They cushion you from cold hard rocky ground and prevent the ground from sapping your body warmth. The pricier versions are nylon-y and have knobs on the side that let them inflate, but even the cheapo $20 ones made of foam make a huge difference.

2. Bring toilet paper and plastic bags. If you have outhouses or actual honest to goodness washrooms at your campsite, the TP might not always be there. If you have to rough it by going in the woods, it's bad form to leave your dirty TP in the woods because it doesn't decompose. The plastic bags are good for the TP situation and for waterproofing your stuff and small trash items.

3. After you're done with dinner, at night, pack up and move food and any scented items (lotion, toothpaste, etc.) far away from your sleeping area so that animals looking for food don't come into your campsite.

4. Bug repellant and sunscreen are a must!

5. A trick for getting your sleeping bag into the stuff sack: Don't bother rolling it up. Instead, put a trash bag into the stuff sack first. Then just start cramming and cramming your sleeping bag into the bag-lined stuff sack, stopping occasionally to squish and compress the air out. (I find sitting on the sleeping bag quite effective.) Once the sleeping bag is fully inside the stuff sack, twist the top tightly--don't tie it!--and tuck the twisted end in, and do up the stuff sack. Not only does this compress your sleeping bag and conserve space, it's also waterproof so that if you're kayaking or canoeing and the sleeping bag falls into the water, you won't be stuck without one later that night.

Have fun!

WendyB said...

I'm strongly against being exposed to the "outside" and "wilderness" so sorry, no help from me!

Unknown said...

If you are going somewhere reasonably close to the metro area (Marietta, Stone Mountain, Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona, etc.), then I don't think it will be much cooler than it is in town. You'll be fine in a tee shirt, jeans/shorts, and flip flops. And assuming it will only be over a weekend, the only thing that might suck is going to the bathroom outside. If you're at a campground with running water and showers, really there's almost nothing to worry about.

I'm a pretty much "indoors" girl myself, and enjoy camping for up to two nights at a time. You won't need special advice or gear unless it is extreme hiking off the beaten path in the mountains somewhere.

E. said...

North Carolina, eh?

Well, I strongly recommend insect repellent, for one thing, seeing as NC's state bird is the mosquito.

I own hiking shoes, but most of the trails in NC are definitely manageable with a good pair of sneakers. Ack, yes, I am not-so-secretly an outdoorsy type. I don't think you need to buy anything from REI or Patagonia - I would recommend it if you decide to go camping/hiking/adventuring outdoors more often, but the stuff is too expensive for just one time. :)

Have fun!

Sharon S said...

Hi girls-I hope you have a fabulous time, all I can recommend is waterproof jackets, lots of jumpers, very comfy shoes and best of all- lovely snuggly sleeping bags!!

Secretista said...

I could never camp. I'm not a high maintenance person. But boy do I hate creepy crawlies. I'll kill them, but being surrounded by them. Uh, no.

Alya said...

Oh I know I can never ever camp or hike or do that sort of stuff.. Insects, snakes and annoying critters are definitely not my thing! And especially the fact that there is NO BATHROOM!

I'm not being much help am I?

Unknown said...

Bring a GPS, a satellite phone and a platinum American Express. You will be far more comfortable knowing that at any time you can call a car service and be whisked off to the nearest Ritz-Carlton.

emily said...

i have no advice because i'm terrible with outdoorsy stuff and i've never been camping! but have fun!

Danz said...

I've never been on an outdoor camping trip before but it has always seemed like a fun thing to do. Have a great time!

Ashelee said...

EEEEK im from north carolina!!! you could not have picked a better place to go!! take lots of OFF! and some good walking shoes, depending on where you go the trails vary so tennis shoes with good tread and nice socks are more than enough. i live in the foothills and its supposed to be in the high seventies next week so it may be just like a five or ten degree difference in the mountains; around this time of year the weather is pretty tricky so as you would on any other vacation take all weather clothes (pants AND shorts) especially a light jacket and one that may be a little heavier for the night time. if you're going with someone who knows what they are doing then the essentials should be covered (tent, tarp, dutch oven, etc...) if you are going to an actual campsite, there may be like a bathroom/shower building so...take shower shoes! don't leave food out (you don't want any unwanted critters or beasts snooping around)
reminder...depending on what you do some of your stuff may get wet like shoes and take lots and lots and lots of socks, some towels and other things like that!!! and if you can a water resistant sleeping bag (if you are going to be in a tent) i guess/hope i covered most the basic stuff other than that i hope you ladies have a wonderful time and enjoy that oh so glorious state of NC that i call home!!!!!!!

Ashley said...

I just read this post, and I smiled so much! I love the idea of you in the woods! Good luck. Definitely call me if you need anything or have questions. Actually if you need to borrow some of those REI things that you didn't want to buy, let me know.

As for advice, I can only reiterate the things that Lisa said.

tp, sunscreen, bug repellent, and hand sanitizer.
gloves and extra warm socks if it will be cold, especially for when you go to sleep.
as for hiking boots, some decent tennis shoes will do the trick, just make sure that they have traction and are comfy if you're going to be doing a lot of walking.

You know, I may take your idea and run with it, as long as you don't mind. Look for a post soon!

Anonymous said...

Surely you'd heard of glamping? It was all the rage in the UK. I bet you can get some advice with a google search!