Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Sacrifice Sinks and Sofas For Tents and Tarps

BY Mick Pflug

Stray from the RV and go camping?! What is the point of possessing a recreation vehicle if it's merely going to become a means of transportation from campsite to campsite? Yet, occasionally, in the midst of your RV adventure, when you're searching to get off the beaten path and you're ready (as ready as you'll ever be) to sacrifice the porcelain sink and domestic fridge for a nylon tent and mummy sleeping bag, you rough it and go tent camping.

You've been RVing for a number of months, seasons and/or years and you want to camp and sleep in a tent. There are a few preparations you need to make before taking this adventure au naturale. I've narrowed it down to two E's you need to be conscious of: the environment (weather, wildlife, terrain, etc.) and equipment (camping gear, food, clothing, etc.).

The environment encompasses weather (such as wind, rain, extreme temperatures) and nature (such as plant life, animals, terrain - mountains, streams) that you will encounter on your particular camping journey.

It's crucial to be aware of the environment in which you camp. Knowing what wild animals, poisonous plant life and natural obstacles (mountains, rivers) inhabit and exist in the area are important. As such, you have to find out what to do about them and what not to do. For example, when camping along the banks of the St. John's River in Seminole County, Florida, it's a good idea to set up your tent at least 30-40 feet away front the alligator-populated shoreline. It's also a good idea to remember that if not provoked in some way, alligators will not attack humans. Yet, this is all part of learning about the environment and being prepared for situations that may occur.

In addition to being aware of the plant and animal life, it's beneficial to know, as best as possible, what the weather will/could be so that you can be prepared with appropriate gear. For example, if you plan to camp in Door County, Wisconsin in September, the days can reach in the upper 80s, yet the nights can get as low as 30° - all within a 24-hour period. Knowing the geographic location, you can be prepared for drastic weather changes. This can also assist you, aside from giving you and your family comfort and safety, in gaining respect for your natural surroundings.

Equipment remains crucial in any camping excursion. As RVers, you know that proper vehicle equipment is essential for safety and comfort. It's twice as important when camping away from the mainstream because its you against the elements and environment. After deciding that you want to temporarily stray from the RV, and you know the place you want to camp (and you're aware of the natural surroundings), the next step is securing the appropriate equipment.

Without spending a lot of money and time purchasing gear that you perhaps are unsure if its the right stuff for you, I suggest getting the basics (either through purchasing or borrowing): a tent, sleeping bags, a pocket knife, water jugs, a basic cooking stove, rain ponchos and other essentials, and practice. Yes, practice. Practice setting up the tent. Practice cooking. Practice making meals that are easy to prepare, inexpensive, lightweight (and tasty) and will provide you with appropriate nutrients to keep you going and give you the energy you need. Rice cakes with peanut butter and dried apples may be lightweight and seem ideal, but would you really want to eat them for an entire weekend? (Much less an entire meal?!)

This way, when it rains, you'll know what type of rain gear is suitable, and how much (or not) the tent leaks, if your sleeping bags keep you warm enough and what else you might need on your trip, without discovering you forgot water jugs in the midst of the Grand Canyon.

You can do this in your backyard, or even at a tent site in the campground in which you're RVing and pretend that you're truly "roughing it." Do this a few times and you'll learn what you need and what you don't before you get miles away from society. However, just a few light camping excursions doesn't mean that you are ready for a four-day hike in the heart of the Smokies, either. But recognizing your camping environment and the proper equipment needed for light camping weekends may convince you that straying from the RV and sleeping in a tent doesn't have to be as painful as it seems - it can be a fun adventure getting away from the "beaten path."

Excerpted from Woodall's Monthly Regional RV/Camping Publications.