A couple of notes first…
Download the latest LDS Preparedness Manual here if you’re interested.
Also, you can read an interview with your favorite Jarhead Survivor over to Joe and Laura’s blog here.
On to the post!
This summer Mrs. Jarhead and I decided to get back out there with the kids and do some camping. I’m not talking about the type of camping where you hike fifteen miles out into the back country and set up a tent or lean-to (much as I’d like to.) I’m talking about the type of camping where we hook up the 26 foot camper to the big gas guzzling truck and head off to the campground.
Honestly, I don’t really even consider this to be camping as I lived in a camper for a couple of years and never considered it to be a hardship. Of course I was single at the time. Having said that, it is fun to get the kids out there in a different environment where they’re outside simply because the inside is so small.
It’s an older camper built somewhere in the late 90’s, but the previous owners kept it up pretty well and we’re putting a little money into making sure everything works.
One of the things I like about the camper is that it’s small enough for my old 350 V8 Dodge to pull. It has a small bathroom with shower and toilet and a holding tank for both black and gray water. If you were in the Navy you’ll know what “ship shower” means: basically turn on the water and get wet, turn it off and soap up, then turn it on and spray yourself down. That way you don’t fill up the holding tank too fast.
It’s got a water heater, fifty gallon holding tank for fresh water if camping off the grid and a 12 volt water pump to move the water. It has lights, a propane stove and oven, propane furnace, and a small sink. The refrigerator can run on either propane or electricity. Another feature I like is that it can run off a battery backup, which I intend to hook up to some solar panels for off-grid camping.
It’s basically a small apartment on wheels.
Off Grid vs Campground Camping
If you’ve never been to a campground before let me explain what they’re like. Generally, they’re divided up into small lots that you can rent for a day, several days, weeks, or even for a season. If you rent for a season you’re called – oddly enough – a Seasonal Camper.
Depending on the campground these sites can be practically on top of each other or have a little space in between so you can’t hear your neighbor take a whiz in the morning. The sites come in different sizes: from tent sites to the big RV size. The camper sites usually have water and electric, and sometimes septic, which is nice because then you can run the poopie hose right to the pipe and not worry about draining the tanks later.
Campgrounds come in all sizes with different offerings. For example: we just stayed in a midsized campground that had a playground for the kids, a small beach, and a dock the kids could jump off as well as weekend activities for kids like a cupcake decorating contest. There is usually a place to rent a canoe or a boat, or you can bring your own, and a laundry in case you’re staying for awhile. Some have a store, so if you want to buy a pizza or some hotdogs and fries you can do that too.
At night (Friday or Saturday) they usually have a classic rock or country band come in so the adults can have a little fun.
The more commercial campgrounds can have pools, saunas, big game and tv rooms for the kids, train rides, etc. It depends on the campground.
Other campgrounds, like the one we’re going to visit this weekend, are far more oriented towards a quiet family experience. No bands or game rooms – just a quiet beach and a playground for the kids and you bring your own entertainment, plus good-sized sites for your camper, so we won’t be crowded up next to the neighbors. Just my speed!
I find some of it can be a little irritating like the loud music on a Saturday night, but I keep an open mind and always have fun. One of the things I really like is the diversity of people. I’m a pretty easy going guy, so I usually strike up a conversation with the neighbors and we wind up trading stories and experiences. Also, we usually camp close enough to home that my family can come visit, so we get together and have a cookout and a fire. It’s awesome when we’re all together and having a good time.
Off grid camping is just that. You drive your camper out into the middle of nowhere and set it up. That’s when you really depend on your propane system and your battery backup (and lanterns and other old standbys.) I haven’t done that with this camper yet, but I really want to get out there and try it to see how long we can camp before systems start to die.
What Does This Have To Do With a Bug-Out?
First, if we ever do have to bug-out and there’s time we can hook the camper up and take it with us. Like I said earlier, it’s a mobile apartment. As long as we have time to hook it up we’ll have a place to stay no matter where we wind up.
Everything we need is already stored in the camper and I don’t let the propane tanks drop below half full, which would last several weeks if used full time.
Another thing, and probably the most important, is that the family gets used to traveling as a team. Mrs Jarhead is in charge of everything inside the camper and I’m in charge of external systems and driving. The kids get used to moving around and if we had to leave in a hurry all I’d have to say is, “We’re going camping!” and they’d know what to expect and what is expected of them. Instead of a thousand questions we’re in the truck and rolling in a half hour or less.
When we go camping now we look like the Clampetts rolling down the road with chairs, a grill, toys, etc, but in case of emergency I’d pack a lot less stuff for a leaner get away.
In the end it’s a great family experience. Some of my favorite memories growing up are of the family camping or at the beach and that’s what I hope to pass on to our kids. I’d like them to look back and tell their kids, “Yeah, your grandpa and grandma loved to take us kids camping. I remember one time when…”
Do you take your family camping?