An Idea A Day: #4 Camp Lean


We are huge campers, we always have been. It is one of the reasons we decided to move from Florida to Oregon. The prevalence of poisonous snakes, centipedes, scorpions and heat, not to mention alligators made camping just a little less carefree than it should be. In Florida your odds of seeing one if not all of those creatures on a weekend camping trip is pretty high. In Oregon not so much.

We started out as pretty hard core campers, sleeping under the stars or in a backcountry tent built for two and by two I mean one. Sometimes we slept on the ground in just a sleeping bag, other times, if we felt like carrying them, we would at least bring sleeping pads. We ate beans out of can, filtered our water from the nearby stream and ate beef jerky. Simple. Blissful. Relaxing.

I remember the first time we went camping with friends in Oregon. It was a car camping site, but to us camping was camping. We put up our little tent, which by the way by now housed two adults and one 80 pound dog, and threw down our sleeping pads and bags and were ready to join our friends by the fire pit to have a beer within 10 minutes. Wait what? We didn’t have to dig a fire pit? Luxury.

As we opened our first beers we realized our friends hadn’t even finished unloading their car. They were still too busy setting up their three room tent for two people. Yes a three room tent FOR TWO PEOPLE! It looked like an old army M.A.S.H tent. Next came the sound of an air mattress pump, then the rustling of a down comforter and the sound of two coleman sleeping bags zipping together to make one giant couples cute. When they finally joined us by the fire for a beer it was just in time for nightfall. We of course made complete fun of them while hung by the fire that night. The next morning we weren’t in such a laughing mood as we gnawed on beef jerky and breakfast bars that had been dampened by the now melted ice in our cooler while they enjoyed fresh cooked eggs and veggie sausage courtesy of their camp stove. So that was car camping…we finally understood.

After that trip we began to ease a bit into car campdom. We still kept it lean for back country trips, but if we were parked within a mile of the site, we started to up our ante when it came to supplies.  We got a slightly bigger and heavier tent and each brought a pillow and extra blanket. Then we added the camp chairs, and the camp stove then started bringing a bigger cooler. Then the babies came which destroyed all possibility of packing light. We graduated to that three room tent we had made so much fun of. It was the only way to house the pack and play, the toys, the diapers, the wipes,the extra changes of clothes, 2 adults, 2 kids and that 80 pound dog. We even gave in and bought that air mattress. Lean camping as we knew it was officially over. Backcountry? Long forgotten. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to try to lug a 2 year old and a 4 year old on a backcountry trip.

In recent years not only has our supply list grown but what used to be a few couples getting together to spontaneously drive up to the mountain and find a site or two has turned into a full fledge group camping experience. We book in advance and we arrive equipped with toddlers ready to run around hyped up on the fresh mountain air alongside a pack of domesticated dogs. Our setup takes forever because we are so busy trying to unpack ten loads from each of our cars, while we are simultaneously setting up a tent or scanning the area for our kids who are likely trying to fall into the fire, throw rocks at each other or poke their eyes out with sticks. When we do finally get settled in we always realize that between all the couples we have overpacked or in some cases gravely under packed. We end up with six loaves of bread, four jars of peanut butter but no jam and crying kids because PB&J is NOT PB&J without the damn J.

When we do finally get through dinner and sit down to have that first beer we realize we have actually forgotten the beer or the bottle opener. It seems like the more we pack each year the more we forget. We share what we can, but inevitably someone is always taking home a soggy cooler of uneaten goods or someone is running into town to forage for the missing ingredient for dinner.

We have tried fruitlessly to coordinate before we hit the road over Facebook, text or through email to plan meals but having so many different communication channels is a nightmare.  We end up having long chain emails and individual unlinked Facebook posts where things are often missed. There has got to be a better way.  There has to be an app for that right? Not one I can find. What I would love to see is a cross platform, perhaps mobile web app, where we can login and plan and coordinate camping with a group.

These are the things I would include in the app:

  1. The ability to add a trip to the app – This includes a map link to the location, a description of the facilities such as does it have a bathroom, showers, water, boat ramp, hiking trails? Is their cell reception?
  2. A place to add and share common tips, like turn right at the split tree or remember to get gas on the way up the mountain.   This is especially helpful for those in your group who are first timers. 
  3. Ability to share and create a list of common supplies needed. For instance toilet paper, firewood, camp stoves, ice, water, batteries, cooking oil,  flashlights…etc and allow people to state that they are bringing with them and how many of each item. This could prevent dupes or key forgotten items. I would also like this list to be editable by the user so they can add things they are bringing. 
  4. A way to suggest and agree on the major meals and then allow people to sign up for ingredients. This cuts down not only on the costs but the supplies you have to lug in and out and the number of camp dishes you have to do each night, leaving more time to just relax. 
  5. An activity suggester. We go to Lost Lake each year. They have boat rentals and fishing plus a ton of hiking, but every year we forgot something like life jackets, fishing poles. tackel etc…if we a shared place where we could coordinate what activity supplies we needed to bring it would certainly cut down on forgotten items. 
  6. A way to save your trip year to year, or copy your trip and edit it for your next locale. 

I could see this app being useful for not only camping, but trips to the beach, or meeting up at outdoor events and concerts or tailgating.  I especially like that it cuts down on waste and having what you need when you arrive at camp already organized leaves so much more time to enjoy time in the great outdoors versus stressing out over packing or forgotten items. I want to start the camp lean movement, who is with me?

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