Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Think We're Gonna Need a Bigger Car

Last summer, Herb and I went camping at Lafayette State Park in NH. It’s a beautiful woodsy spot in the mountains. We set up our tent, cooked on an open fire, and hiked through the mountains. We had such a wonderful time that we decided to do it again this summer. But of course, this summer Ryan is on the outside instead of on the inside, which means a BIG difference in packing.

Traveling with a baby requires a lot of packing. And camping requires a lot of packing. So when you combine the two, we’re talking a LOT of stuff. In fact, I don’t think we’ll be able to fit everything we need into the car. Last summer the car was stuffed to the gills, and this summer we need to also accommodate a car seat, a Pack & Play, a stroller, a framepack for hiking, possibly a high chair, plus Ryan’s clothes, toys, diapers, and food. Plus, we have a bigger tent this year.

You’d think that living in the woods for a few days would be simpler than living at home, and would therefore require less stuff. Your needs are pretty basic, right? Food, shelter, clothes, and not much else. But food requires not only the actual food, but something to cook it in, something to eat it with, and some way to clean up afterwards. So pack the basic foodstuffs: cereal, milk, juice, peanut butter, jelly, bread, burgers and dogs, buns for the burgers and dogs, condiments, soda, and of course graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate (it’s not really camping until you’ve made s’mores, after all). (And will hard-core campers think less of us if we add to that list two filets mignon, fresh summer squash, red bliss potatoes and a bottle of wine for that first dinner? It’s a little tradition of ours.) But of course, a good deal of that needs to be refrigerated, so add in a larger cooler with ice. Then add in paper plates and cups, napkins, plastic cutlery, a few pots and pans, and a camp stove (don’t forget the propane), plus a sharp knife, a spatula, and toasting forks. And then some dish detergent, a basin, a jerrican for hauling water, some sponges, and a dishtowel or two. Oh, and a kettle for heating wash water on the stove. Then comes shelter: a large tent (with fly and partitions), a tarp to put it on, an inflatable air mattress, two sleeping bags, two pillows, and a Pack & Play with its mattress and linens.

And we haven’t even gotten to clothes! You’d think those would be simple, but again, it’s more complicated than it seems at first glance. This being New Hampshire in the summer, you need to plan for all contingencies of weather. Could be 40 degrees, could be over 100. Could be sunny, could be rainy. So you pack shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, a windbreaker, a rain poncho, warm pajamas, cool pajamas, sneakers and socks, hiking shoes, sandals, and a bathing suit (don’t forget the towels). Multiply that by two adults and a baby (who often goes through multiple outfits a day) and there’s another whole carload of stuff right there.

Then of course you have all the other bits and pieces: toothbrushes, hairbrushes, soap and shampoo, first aid kit, paper towels, tinfoil, an extra backpack, cooking spray, salt and pepper, flashlights, a lantern, bug spray, sunscreen, matches, firestarters, citronella candles, a few board games, folding camp chairs, and a crossword puzzle book or two. Luckily, most of that stuff is small and can be crammed into the nooks and crevices between the larger stuff.

But of course, the biggest difficulty is when you’re headed home, and despite the fact that you’ve eaten most of your foodstuffs, thrown away a bunch of paper goods, and used up a lot of your toiletries, everything remaining has magically expanded so it no longer fits in the car. Many families I know upsized to larger cars or even a minivan or an SUV after they had kids, and I pooh-poohed the idea. We can easily manage with our existing cars! But camping might be the one thing that sends us over the edge. Unless of course, we just bring both cars. Hey, that’s not such a bad idea, come to think of it…

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