How I Learned to Tent Camp in the Middle of Nowhere

Camping in 2023 bears little resemblance to what I experienced as a kid in the 1970s. Back then, although public campgrounds were a thing, most campers I knew took a tent and a hike out into the middle of nowhere. I did it with my own family.

I learned how to tent camp in the wilderness before glamping was ever a thing. That was back in the days when you had to be fairly wealthy to afford a motor home or travel trailer. Middle-class families that appreciated the great outdoors but did not like tents could buy a cheap tent camper and do a little bit better than sleeping on the ground. But it was still nothing like it is today.

Camping on the Family Farm

I learned to tent camp on the family farm. When I say ‘farm’, I am not talking about a plot of land on which agriculture or husbandry takes place. Rather, my father owned 50 acres of land on which he planted pine trees. We called it ‘the farm’. It was about two hours from where we lived.

The farm had no electricity or running water. It was 50 acres of soil, pine trees, and a pond my father had dug when I was no more than three or four years old. The farm was where we spent our summer vacations. We also spent every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day there.

My siblings and I slept in tents. These were old pup tents that my father had purchased as army surplus. Meanwhile, he and my mother slept in a pop-up tent camper until I was about 10. Then they could finally afford to purchase a small camper for the back of the pickup truck.

Then Came the Boy Scouts

In addition to doing a lot of camping, I grew up in Scouting. I was a Cub Scout, a Webelo, and eventually a Boy Scout. It was in the Boy Scouts that I learned to strap on a full backpack and hike five miles into the wilderness.

I didn’t have my favorite Rollercam cam straps back then because they did not exist. So I attached things to my backpack with either rope or bungee cords. I would have rather had the cam straps, but ropes and bungees did the job.

As a Boy Scout, I learned how to cook over an open flame. I learned how to catch a fish and then gut it. Scouting taught me how to find my way with a map in compass, apply first aid in the event of an emergency, and make do in the wilderness with very little.

Not So Much These Days

I am almost ashamed to admit that I’m not so fond of tent camping these days. I attribute it to age and the aches and pains that come with it. If I am going camping in 2023, it will be in an RV at a public campground offering certain amenities I don’t care to do without.

I get that my preference for modern camping is not considered ‘real’ camping in some circles. Some 30 years ago, I had the same opinion. But I cannot deny what age has done to my body. Tent camping is no longer fun for me.

I will look back on my tent camping days with fond memories. Whenever I pull out a cam strap to tie something down, I will remember tying things to my backpack with rope. It was fun while it lasted. I’m glad I learned to tent camp in the middle of nowhere.