John Winters Column

Wise words on camping

by John A. Winters

We recently had our annual spring campout with the Mighty Men of Pack 47.

Bittersweet in a way. Youngest SON of Thunder will be moving up to Troop 47 this fall. So the last official campout with the younger titans.  

There are rather large differences between what is known as “car camping” and backpacking. That’s mainly in the stuff one totes. Backpacking, by its very name, suggests everything you bring is carried on your back. The old adage that ounces equals pounds and pounds equals pain holds true when it’s on your back.

Car camping means there are no weight limits. And for some reason, it takes twice as long to pack for an overnight car camping trip than it does for a three-day backpacking one. Go figure.

It’s all about weight; or not at all. The SONs’ backpacking tents weigh about two pounds. Our car camping tent, which can house a small village, requires a forklift to move. The Little Black Dress calls it the condo. I’ve stayed in beach houses smaller than the condo.

There are two key advantages to car camping: a plethora of ice, as much as you want. And when nature calls, you don’t have to be one with nature, but can actually use something that flushes.

It is not until you can’t have something that you realize how much you need it. Or at least appreciate it. Ice is a wonder. So is sitting down when needed. Let’s celebrate the small stuff.

I think there need to be certain rules. For example, if you are camping — regardless of the type of said camping — I think you should camp.

And so, after observing both kids and adults, a few final thoughts on car camping. You will probably figure out which are for the older generation.

1. You may not bring a generator. End of discussion.

2. You may not go get into your car at 4 a.m. and run your heater because you are cold. Be prepared, as the Scouts say. Bring warm clothes. And since everyone else is trying to sleep, a nearby running car does not help.

3. If you have to lift off a 30-pound Dutch oven and a bag of groceries off the ice chest to get a drink, let me assure you that is not part of the “community chest.” Bring your own.

4. Bringing one of those guest-type air mattresses that require an electric pump, or a large foot pump at minimum, does not fall under the category of camping. Nor do designer sheets.

5. Bringing your microwave, BOSE surround sound stereo, hair dryer and other accoutrements is not camping. See No. 1 above.

6. You are more than welcome to sit in my camp chair. If I am around, at least ask. When I come back and say I’d like to sit in my chair, don’t say “I had it first.”

7. You are also free to try out my hammock. But it’s also where I sleep so please ask first. And no, you may not “keep-borrow” it. I want it back.

8. If you are coming to camp, please stay to camp. The only exception is an actual tornado. Said tornado must be within throwing distance. I say this because someone decided to take down their condo about 4 in the morning. This was followed by dragging all their ice coolers filled with ice, sloshing around. I thought it was a freaking tornado.

9. You are in the wilderness. That bear in camp will eventually leave. The only worry about bears is to be sure there is at least one person slower than you.

10. When you are asked to bring your own plates, water bottles, utensils, etc. — do it.  I am not the kitchen. Re-read that whole “Be Prepared” thing. Someone went to the trouble of making a list of who is doing what and what to bring. Read it. Obey it. 

11. You are more than welcome to borrow my phone to call your mother. Do not return in an hour and tell me my phone is dead.

12. Do not poke me in the eye with that stick you just sharpened.

13. Do not throw things in the fire that won’t burn easily. Do not throw things in the fire that will explode.

14. I will be more than happy to help you set up your tent. The emphasis is on “help.” You don’t get to walk away to eat a hotdog.

15. Say thank you when someone cooks your dinner or yanks that tick off of you. 

16. The White Monkey always goes camping with me. You are free to say hi to him. Please do not touch him — he bites. And no, you may not sleep with him because you forgot your own special blanket/stuffed animal/whatever. I get scared at night too. He keeps me safe.

17. Tell ghost stories at your own risk. Just don’t keep me up all night with all the lights on because you are now scared. That goes for the kids too.

18. You are outdoors. Enjoy it. Do not rush. Relax and have fun.


(John A. Winters is general manager for The Newnan Times-Herald. Follow his adventures at . Email him at )


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