COLUMN: ‘Roughing it’ in the great outdoors

After years of camping in a tent, PAN columnist Nick Greenizan has hit his breaking point.

I’ve always considered myself to be an outdoorsy person.

I grew up camping every summer, and fished often with my dad and grandpa. I know how to set up a tent, I’ve gutted a fish once or twice, and I know the perfect ratio of chocolate to marshmallow when making s’mores. (The trick? Extra of both.)

I was a Cub Scout, dammit.

But as I’ve grown older, I fear I’ve become, well, a little soft. A little too accustomed to the comforts of the indoors – where there are TVs and king-sized beds and refrigerators, rather than coolers that require constant refilling with ice.

This weakening resolve for the woods is nevermore apparent than during my annual camping trip/softball tournament in the Okanagan. Now, we aren’t exactly “roughing it” on this trip. The campsite is next to the ball field rather than deep in the bush, it’s fully serviced with flush toilets, and a supermarket is no more than five minutes away. Our cellphones still get reception. There’s even free Wi-Fi, for crying out loud.

But still, I have my issues.

For starters, I am – no matter how much I plan ahead – usually unprepared once I get there.

Hey, can somebody gimme a hand with this tent?

I forgot my axe, can I borrow yours for a minute?

Did anyone remember to bring bug spray?

Where’d I put those tent pegs?

Seriously – somebody give me a hand with this tent.

Such feelings are only magnified in comparison to the rest of my friends, who, like me, started out tenting but have since upgraded to much larger – and much more air-conditioned – trailers.

Feelings of inadequacy – maybe envy – aside, I, ever the burly outdoorsman, have always renounced such creature comforts to stick with my trusty tent. I stay closer to nature this way, I tell myself, along with other lies such as “It’s not that hot in here when the sun comes up at 6:30 in the morning” and “sleeping this close to the ground isn’t that bad, really.”

Mostly, however, I’ve just never had the extra cash – nor the inclination to spend it – to buy an RV of my own.

I do have a fantastic tent, as far as tents go. It’s big and roomy, and stays dry in even the worst of conditions. I even have a decent air mattress, which is about the only thing that separates me from a hibernating bear.

But still, organization is a problem, especially for an obsessive-compulsive-type like me, who insists everything be in its right place, even in a tent.

Food, too – specifically, keeping it cold – becomes an issue, as anyone who has ever camped for more than a few days at a time well knows.

So there I was, on the fourth day of our expedition, standing in front of my small barbecue, cooking a defrosted-for-far-too-long steak that had spend the previous few days sitting under an ice block, inside a cooler which itself had been sitting inside the door of a too-hot tent.

And as I weighed the pros and cons of starvation versus food poisoning, the door of my friend’s air-conditioned 26-foot trailer swung open, and out he walked with a pizza.

A pizza!

“Oh, it’s warmer out here than I thought,” he said, as sweat beaded on my ever-furrowing brow just a few feet away.

Right there, on the spot, I decided I was buying a trailer in time for next summer.

No more sleeping at night with four layers of clothes on, only to tear them off in a sweaty panic at 7 a.m. No more accidentally hitting your thumb – rather than the tent peg – with the hammer. No more eating questionable meat from the bottom of a watery cooler.

No, I thought to myself. No more of any of that.

Jeez, maybe I really am getting soft.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.

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