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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Camping set up – Part 1

Daylight Savings time is here and the ride season in most parts of the country has truly began. Now is the perfect time to….plan your camping arrangements for the rides on your schedule this year!

I love camping. Absolutely adore it. In a good year, I will spend over 20 weekends a year in a sleeping bag doing some form of camping. It never gets old. How much of my love of endurance is linked to my love of camping and being outdoors? Probably more than I can admit. I many types of camping – from base camping at bluegrass festivals that has every camping luxury I care to set up, to doing civil war reenactments “campaign” style (meaning I sleep in my period uniform on the ground with only my period gum blanket, wool blanket, and poncho). I could go on and on and on….and on about gear and the different ways to set up camping systems, until it was just me sitting here typing, and no one reading. So for the sake of my readers’ attention spans, I’m limiting my scope to endurance riding only – not backpacking, base camping, or parking lot camping….

I want to focus on the human side – most people have their minds made up on the horse portion of the equation. My personal preference is a high tie, either on a trailer or other structure. I believe this is the safest and most secure for both the horse on the confinement system, and the other horses in ridecamp. However, I’ll leave that discussion for another post.

I’m assuming you don’t have a LQ or a camper. Someday I’ll have a camper with a small little 2 horse aluminum trailer, but right now I’m an almost-college-student-living-on-loans. So we’ll do it the old fashion way.

***Please note that I’m putting these “situations” in order of complexity, not preference. Thus, situation 1 is “ride and leave”, not something I normally recommend or do, however I have done it when ride camp is generally unsuitable for non-LQ camping, and the ride is 20 minutes from home, or in cases that staying the night after the ride is not allowed.

Situation #1 – Local ride, stay one night and go home right after ride.

Priorities: quick set up and take down, enough sleep that I can still ride and then drive home afterwards.

Choosing a spot: Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. You aren’t here to set up any kind of residence. Try to get a spot that puts your vehicle somewhat level – you will sleep better. If you can wiggle your way next to a picnic table or some other amenity – even better – since you didn’t pack one (or, if you ignored my advice and decided you could NOT live without your table, now you don’t have to unpack it! Which means you don’t have to re-pack it after the ride!).

Sleeping arrangements: I rarely set up a tent or other dwelling for a one night stay. It’s not worth the effort to put up, and the LAST thing I want to do is take down a tent after I ride or try to pack up a dressing room. My dressing room is my tack room and I have to remove stuff to make room for my bedroll and it makes clean up after a hassle. Sleeping in the back of the truck bed is great during hot summer nights, BUT I have yet to stay warm – even in the summer. I get cold easy. Every time I’ve tried sleeping in the truck bed, I didn’t sleep well and ended up staggering around at 1am trying to find something different. What works best is sleeping in my cab. This is especially nice because there’s a built in heater – when I get cold I reach over and turn on the ignition (I DON’T have a diesel, so I don’t wake the neighbors). I’m 5’1” or 5’2” and I fit perfectly across the cab of my standard cab pickup. I usually don’t pack my bed roll after the ride – just kind of mash it into a lump and put in the passenger seat until I get home to sort everything out.

Cooking/eating: I only bring stuff that doesn’t need to be cooked or heated. If I simply can’t stand the thought of going without a hot drink the morning, I will bring my backpacking stove and pot to boil water in – but that’s IT. No set up, no clean up, no extra gear. There’s plenty of options in the finger food category to keep you satisfied for the 24 hours you will spend at ridecamp. Sometimes I don’t even bring an ice chest. Especially if it’s a cool ride, I bring stuff that is shelf stable for a couple of days in cool weather and don’t worry about the added hassle of an ice chest – hard cheese, eggs etc.. Try to avoid having to bring flatware or cutlery.

Shower/cleaniness: If you can’t go 24 hours without a shower, you are in the wrong sport.

Set up: Don’t unload anything that you don’t absolutely have to. I attempt to leave EVERYTHING in my trailer or in the bed of my truck. If you need a table, use your tailgate or stand at the passenger side of your vehicle. Want to sit down? That’s why you brought all those buckets – your horse has plenty and won’t mind if you borrow one for a couple of minutes.

Clothing considerations: I bring 2 sets of clothes – one to arrive and leave in, the other to sleep and ride in. That’s it. You can get away with one set….but it’s kind of risky…..all sorts of untoward things can happen when the endurance gremlins realize you have ONE pair of tights that you must not only attend the ride meeting in, ride 50 miles in, but also drive home in – including exposing yourself to the general public at a stop at the self serve gas station.

Weather: Wet doesn’t matter because you are snug as a bug in the cab of your vehicle. Your stuff isn’t getting wet because you hardly brought anything (right?????), and what little you DID bring is still mostly packed away. Ditto for wind. A heat wave just means you have more options for bedding down – the bed of your truck? The picnic table located oh so conveniently next to your spot?

Mel’s Must-Haves #1:
***For each camping situation, I will end the post with a list of my favorite gear for that particular situation.

Thermarest – works wonders for evening out the contours of my seat and the seatbelt fasteners (why don’t they make front bench seats in trucks anymore??????!!!!!).

Sleeping bag – either a mummy or a standard works well.

Pillow – a pillow does wonders for creating the illusion of comfort. You won’t have a lot using this camp set up, so you may as well splurge on space and bring a pillow.

Pack extra totes for a fast and easy get away. I guarantee that when you are tired and a bit grumpy, you will be shocked to find that what little you did bring won’t go back into their containers and bags, your passenger seat is filled with your bedroll, and your dressing room and trailer is absolutely jammed with disorganized horse stuff that you don’t have the energy to properly put away. And you just want to start your drive home with the minimum of fuss. What do with all this other crap that mysteriously migrated out of your truck –that is invariably to light to trust to the fickle nature of the winds at freeway speed in the bed? That’s when you stuff it into your spare containers.

Conclusion: Technically you could do all your rides this way – very minimalist – no matter how many nights you were staying. However, I don’t know about you, but I do this to have FUN, and I prefer some of my creature comforts after a hard ride. The little luxuries can make it easier to enjoy the company of friends at ridecamp, and for me endurance rides are miniature vacations! It’s not worth it to me to do an elaborate set up for one night, but as the nights multiply and the ride distance lengthens, I’m willing to spend more time and energy setting up my camp and slip into a more "vacation mode".

Series continues in part 2 – One day LD/50 with 2 nights

1 comment:

  1. "a ride 20 minutes from home."

    I dream of things like that. Even the VERY CLOSEST RIDE to me is an hour away, and it hasn't been held in 6 years. There's a new one happening this year: a mere 2 hours away--180 miles, through 2 major cities.


    The back seat of a kingcab is always a good choice for me. There are hidden blessings in being a short person.


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