7 Things I Don’t Miss About Camping As A Kid
Nostalgia is universal. It’s as common as complaining about the boss or being impatient at the DMV. It was always better “back then”. In the nostalgic version of camping, back in the day the sun was always shining, the air was clear, campsites weren’t crowded, there were no trail park fees, raccoons didn’t try and steal your food, and mosquitos didn’t try to pop West Nile Virus into your bloodstream.
Bull. If you believe that, I’ll sell you some oceanfront property in Kansas. Sure, some things were better back then. But a lot of things weren’t. When I think back to my early days in the backcountry (at the risk of dating myself, Michael Jordan was playing for the Tarheels, and had hair) there are a lot of things I don’t miss a bit.
When I started backpacking, polar fleece didn’t exist, let alone merino wool. It was the era of army surplus wool pants. They itched, they weighed a ton, and when rolled up, they only took up half my pack.
Melted Long Underwear
Almost worse than being heavy and itchy your clothes would melt. You couldn’t put polypropylene into the dryer without it turning into a molten lump the size of your fist. I’d always forget to take it out and hang it up.
Maddening Tent Poles
The guy who invented shock-corded tent poles made a lot of money. As far as I’m concerned, he deserves it. I spent far too much time swearing up a storm while putting up my tent in a storm, trying to keep poles and hubs together and fumbling a pole segments that rolled away in the dark.
Sore knees and Purple Spaghetti
I don’t miss the sore knees and back from kneeling next to a stream, using a pump-filter to fill water bottles. The only alternative to the pump-and-grunt was iodine tablets that made water brown and tart, and turned purple in the presence of starch. Ultraviolet Steri-Pens are far smaller and faster, and gravity-filters work great for big groups. Come to think of it, why did it decades for us to think of using gravity—the most basic, obvious force in the unverise–to move water through a filter?
Your Own Portable Steam Room
Ah, nylon raingear that got wetter on the inside than the outside in the age before Gore-Tex and other waterproof-breathable fabrics. I remember old-school Alaskans saying that Gore Tex would never work, that heavy PVC rain slickers were the way to go. Well, they were wrong.
Soaked Gear in the Morning
I remember exclaiming “duh!” when tents started sporting vestibules, sometime during the late Reagan administration. Along with a wet pack in the morning, I don’t miss wind-blown rain thwacking against the tent door.
Pour Fuel Into An Impossibly Small Hole
Before MSR came up with the idea of connecting a stove directly to the fuel bottle, pre-meal camp routine involved pouring white gas through a tiny funnel carefully into an even tinier stove tank. Inevitably, you’d soak your fingers, which froze as the fuel evaporated. And you’d probably also spill a little on the outside of the stove. If you lit the stove too quickly, you’d risk a very large boom.
Ah, those were the days. Itchy skin, clammy raingear, melted clothes, explosions, and annoyingly slow filters. Enjoy camping in the modern era. Old school is overrated.
Neil Schulman no longer wears itchy pants. He’s also gotten rid of his 8-track tapes.
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