We’re not big campers. We’ll pitch a tent once or twice a summer and that’s about it. One of the times we usually camp is the weekend before Labor Day weekend. We join a group of Dave’s friends and head to Cedar Point in Ohio, stay in a hotel there overnight, ride all the roller coasters, then stop for groceries before boarding a ferry to Kelly Island where we camp for the next two nights. I first joined in the fun with Dave was three years ago. For multiple reasons we decided just to take in the Cedar Point roller coaster day before heading back home. Two years ago I had to miss out because I was in Kansas. Last year we joined in for the entire weekend of festivities, and it was spectacularly fun. I was really excited to do it again this year…but in the end we decided not to go. It was a tough decision, because it is such a fun time and we really enjoy hanging out with this group of friends. As far as trips go, it isn’t too expensive…gas, one night in the hotel (which includes tickets to Cedar Point the next day), groceries, the ferry ride, and the fee for the camping sites (which is split between multiple people). But when all is said and done we end up dropping a few hundred dollars, and recently we’ve really been trying to save up money. Once we get into the house we’re going to have a lot of expenses, including trying to buy a lot of new furniture. In the end we decided against the trip, and eventually we made other plans for the weekend (but more on that later)….
Another almost-annual tradition for Dave’s family is to camp out on his family land (also known as “The Pond”) over Labor Day weekend. If we had gone to Cedar Point & Kelly Island this year, that would mean we would have camped last weekend and next weekend…which is a lot of camping for a family of not-so-avid campers. I say that it’s an almost-annual tradition because it really hasn’t been an annual event. We were there three years ago, and I’m almost positive that they didn’t do it two years ago because I actually traveled back to Indiana from Kansas over Labor Day weekend and we didn’t do any camping. I’m pretty sure we didn’t do it last year either, because we were right in the middle of wedding planning. So I guess it’s really more of an “every few years” event. Whatever you want to call it, we’re doing it again this year! We get together with Dave’s mom’s side of the family (the same side of the family that we celebrated with for Christmas, Easter, and 4th of July this past year). Dave’s mom has 2 sisters, which have a total of 5 kids (aka “the cousins”). Last I heard we will be joined by one of Dave’s aunts (and uncle), and at least three of the other cousins (plus significant others…I think). The older generation heads back to town (which is only about 5 minutes away) to sleep at home for the night while the cousins pitch tents and sleep at The Pond. It’s what I like to call “camping lite.”
When I was a kid in Canada my parents sent me off to a summer camp for two weeks. I did this for three years when I was a pre-teen. Each year the camp sent us off on a canoe trip for two or three nights. Before the camping trip we learned all sorts of survival skills….how to tie all different kinds of knots, how to waterproof all of our gear, how to build a fire. We had canoe lessons, and we sat down with our cabin-mates and planned out the trip route and our food with our camp counselors. We had two or three counselors on the trip with us, but we were responsible for pitching our own tents, cooking our meals, and packing everything up the next morning. We slept in these ancient canvas tents that I swear had probably been left over from the military during WWII. I’m only kind of kidding.
After my childhood camping experiences, when Dave asked me if I wanted to go camping my answer was “HECK NO!” Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, the postcard, and all that jazz. What neither of us realized was that we had two very different definitions of camping. I can barely call Dave’s version “camping” because it doesn’t even come close to resembling my camping experiences as a kid. There are some pretty big differences between “camping” and “camping lite.” For example, when you’re camping, you sleep right on the ground. That means you have two things between all the rocks and twigs: the bottom of the tent, and your sleeping bag. Camping lite involves the use of an air mattress! This was a completely novel concept to me. I thought air mattresses were for your parents when they came to visit your one bedroom apartment and didn’t want to sleep on the floor…not for camping! Camping lite also involves the use of blankets and pillows plus a sleeping bag…so in the end you’re essentially sleeping in a bed inside the tent. I have to say, it’s much more comfortable way of camping. My big question then was….how do you blow up the air mattress? That requires a pump! Pumps are heavy and not waterproof and certainly never would have made the cut when packing for a canoe trip. But when you’re camping with your car only a few feet away…pumps are completely acceptable accessories. Oh, and if your pump needs an electrical outlet, that’s okay too, because electrical outlets are readily available if you’re “camping lite.” When you’re really camping on a desolate island in the middle of a remote lake, asking for an electrical outlet is about as realistic as asking for an elephant. Not gonna happen. Overall “camping lite” really isn’t that bad of an experience!
Anyway, one of our friends asked to borrow our tent for the Cedar Point / Kelly Island trip, which was fine with us because we weren’t going to be using it. Unfortunately we changed our plans at the last minute, which meant that we wouldn’t be able to get the tent back in time for when we needed it over Labor Day weekend. Since last year’s camping trip I had been bugging Dave (half jokingly half in earnest) to get a new tent. Technically his tent is functional, and it’s certainly a big upgrade from those army surplus tents I used as a kid. But…some of the rods broke at some point in time and are now held together with duct tape, and it’s a little on the small side for two people, a dog (sometimes), an air mattress, and a bag or two of personal items. Not having our tent available to us for Labor Day weekend gave us the perfect excuse to make an upgrade.
My eyes just about popped out of my head when I first took a look at tent prices. A $500+ price tag seemed insane for something that we only use once or twice a year. We really didn’t want to spend more than about $150. That slimmed down our list of potential options pretty fast! The decision came down to the Coleman Red Canyon versus the Coleman Montana 8.
In the end we decided to go with the Montana 8. I know it seems ridiculous for two people (and a dog) to use an 8 person tent, but as anyone who has used a tent will tell you, realistically you can probably fit in 1 less person than advertised if people sleep like sardines. If you want to account for “camping lite” (sleeping with air mattresses) and some luggage / personal items, it’s best to cut the recommended capacity in half. This 8 person tent could probably accommodate 4 adults fairly comfortably. Having a slightly larger tent isn’t going to be a horrible thing, given that our family will eventually grow (in people and / or dogs) having a bit of extra space isn’t the worst thing in the world. I really liked the hinged door, because I hate tripping over myself to get into a tent, then getting the zipper stuck when trying to get the door closed up. Of course you always have the most problems with the tent door in the evening when there are a million mosquitoes attracted to the flashlight you’re holding, and they’re all zooming right toward the light in the wide open tent because that stupid zipper gets stuck.
We’re looking forward to our little “end of summer” plans, but let’s face it…Indiana stays HOT for several weeks after Labor Day (aka the unofficial end of summer)! Stay tuned for lots of pictures. If it’s anything like the last Labor Day camp-out I’m sure that I’ll have a few fun stories to share!
Until later, Ashlen