If you asked ten people what they consider “roughing it”, I can almost guarantee you’d get ten different answers. Some people think they’re roughing it when their cell phone loses reception for more than an hour or if they can’t check their email for a few days because the server’s down. Some people can’t go an hour without fixing their hair, putting on make-up or at least looking at themselves in the mirror. While others actually prefer to be without modern amenities such as running water, electricity and indoor plumbing. They don’t mind squatting on a log and wiping with leafy greens. They’re not bothered by the thought of going days without showering (which is actually better for your hair). What’s wrong with these people? They’re camping.
Now keep in mind that even among avid campers the notion of roughing it varies from one person to the next. A person hiking the Appalachian Trail stopping only long enough to build a fire and rest for the night would most definitely scoff at someone “roughing it” in an RV with a big screen, air conditioning and indoor plumbing but both are camping nonetheless. Somewhere in the middle you’ll find a group that gathers at pre-established camping sites with running water, indoor plumbing and community showers. Compared to the hiker, they’re living in luxury. Compared to the RV’er, they’re like an upper-middle class. These folks can setup shop for weeks or months at a time. They have grills, a propane stove and usually easy access to a convenience store. A little more difficult than civilized life…yes. But roughing it…hardly. There’s nothing wrong with this type of camping. I have done it many times and likely will again. And again. And again. But for the sake of this piece…it is not a rough experience.
Further down this hierarchy you have the weekend or week long warriors. Sort of like the working-class, they scour an area looking for a clear, flat spot to pitch their tent and establish their campsite. If they work smart instead of hard, they thought to bring firewood. Otherwise they scour once more. They pack a cooler with food, a cooler with beer and a cooler with ice. They use matches or a lighter to ignite their fire, use it to keep warm and cook their food. These warriors can eat very well depending on food rations and experience cooking atop an open flame or in a coal bed. But the nights are cold and dark and the toilet is everywhere. Camping this way is very close to roughing it. But there is still one more category of camper that makes warriors look like weenies.
The winter camper and the necessity camper take the cake when it comes to roughing it in the wild. The winter camper must stay close to the fire at all times to ensure it remains lit; normally a small fire so as to not burn up all the wood stores. The winter camper must also eat frequently to stay nourished because the cold temperature has elevated his/her metabolism. The necessity camper takes only what is needed to survive for the time they will be in the wilderness. I have friends who go for extended canoe trips and cannot carry the weight of several coolers and firewood in their boat. As a result, camping this way requires you to be resourceful, know how to fish or trap small game. Necessity campers will travel with a pup tent and a sleeping bag, first aid kit, a multi-tool, water and little else.
There are many other kinds of camping that I realize I have overlooked or simply left out in this brief expose. Please trust that I will touch on them in future articles. But for now, please think twice before you use the term “roughing it” when you forget your lunch on the kitchen counter or lose your favorite pair of sunglasses….because it could be worse.