Camping is for Crazy People

10 Reasons Camping is for Crazy People

I didn’t grow up camping. I’ve never been actively opposed to it—I just haven’t had a lot of experience.

But after taking a 17-day road trip with some experienced camping friends—a trip that included nine nights of camping at five different campgrounds—I now have a reasonable enough sampling to offer my thoughts on why camping is one of the craziest things modern humans do.

Here goes:

1) Pit Toilets

The Internet said our campground at Yosemite had flushing toilets. The Internet lied. Or rather, it didn’t specify that the group campsites were a good seven-minute walk to the flush toilets. If we really needed to go in a hurry, we had to use the pit toilets in the center of the group sites.

Pit toilets, if you’re unfamiliar, are basically glorified outhouses. They smell somewhat acceptable if they’ve just been flumped (that’s the technical term for removing the waste from a pit toilet—you’re welcome). But after a few folks have done their business, pit toilets are nasty. No other way to put it.

The four group sites at our campground held a total of 120 people. They weren’t all filled to capacity, but let’s estimate there were 80 people there. Two pit toilets for 80 people. Take a moment and imagine that. No amount of flumping was going to save our poor nostrils.

But at least those pit toilets had hand sanitizer. The flush toilet bathrooms seven minutes away had cold water sinks, but no hand sanitizer, and no soap. Apparently finding a campground bathroom with soap is like winning the lottery.

Lesson learned. Always carry soap.

2) Pit Toilets at Night

Nope, not done with the toilet thing yet. Pit toilets are bad enough during the day. But at night? With a flashlight? That’s the stuff of horror movies right there. Seriously.

3) Bugs

We were pretty fortunate that it’s been a hot, dry summer in the west. Fires galore, but almost no mosquitoes!

Nonetheless, the first night we camped, I dreamed that I was being eaten by bugs in my sleeping bag and had to kill them by whacking them with a spoon. There were no bugs to be seen during the waking hours, but the mere fact of sleeping outside made it feel like there were bugs crawling all over me, all the time.

Also, did I mention the flies in the pit toilets? There were flies in the pit toilets. Flies and no soap. Yes, I’m a privileged whiner. I get that. But still. Flies and no soap. BY CHOICE. See? Campers are crazy.

4) Tents

Personal comfort and the fact that I almost froze to death one night aside, let’s talk about the silliness of sleeping in a tent.

At home, we are surrounded by neighbors we presumably know, at least on the surface—yet we lock our doors at night to keep the creepy people out.

While camping, we purposefully surround ourselves with perfect strangers in the middle of the woods, with nothing between us and the potential serial killers but some flimsy nylon and a zipper.

Seriously, the whole time we camped, I was writing a murder mystery in my head.

“The zipper opened slowly . . . the family barely stirred . . .”

And since I’m still not over my bathroom rant . . .

“As she clicked the lock shut on the pit toilet door, her flashlight flickered, then everything went dark . . .”


5) Lions and Tigers Raccoons and Bears, Oh My

How about those adorable little raccoons and squirrels who crawl all over your make-shift kitchen and picnic-table-dining-room all night long? Oh, they’re there. Trust me. I have proof.


Those are not little kid handprints.

Also, if a bear or a mountain lion were wandering through an average American neighborhood, there would be PANDELERIUM, people. Folks would be freaking out, locking their doors, brandishing weapons, and peering nervously out the window.

Yet, while camping, bears and mountain lions roam around freely all night long, and there’s nothing between them and your precious sleeping babies but some flimsy nylon and a zipper.

I’m telling you. Insanity.

6) Fellow Campers

Another special feature of the nylon/zipper barrier to the outside world is that you get to hear what all of your neighbors are up to all night long. The young lady at Yosemite with the loud, hacking cough was a real peach come bedtime (although she probably succeeded in keeping the bears and mountain lions away—YAY!). Equally charming was the family at the Redwoods who brought along their two dogs, Jack and Rita (whose names I know because “JACK! Get back here right now!” and “RITA! We don’t chase people!”).

We did get a girl with a guitar and a lovely singing voice once. But we also got someone who kept blowing an air horn like you hear at football games. Who the heck brings an air horn to the woods? Crazy campers, apparently.

7) Campfire Smoke

In normal life, most of us try to avoid second-hand smoke at all costs. Yet while camping, we sit there and happily suck in campfire smoke by the lung full. I may as well have smoked a pack of cigarettes for how much smoke I inhaled around the campfire during our trip.


The smoke is also impossible to get away from, no matter how many times you change seats. They say that smoke follows beauty, but I think it just follows people who think camping is crazy.

Also, there are apparently folks who love the smell of campfires. These are not my people.

8) Cleanliness (or Lack Thereof)

Don’t let the perfectly groomed families in the L.L. Bean catalog fool you. Camping is dirty. Like, filthy dirty. Like, impossible to get clean dirty (especially when the bathrooms have only hand sanitizer or cold water and no soap).

You can’t get away from the dirt. It just becomes a part of you. We’ve been home for four days, and I still can’t get my feet totally clean.

And the kids? Forget about it. Think Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon. Every day. All day long.

Shower, you say? Oh, some campgrounds don’t believe in those. And those that do usually require quarters for the privilege of warm running water. I’ve never been so happy to pay $1.25 for three minutes of anything in my life, ever.

9) S’mores

Oh, yes. By all means, let’s take a horribly filthy situation and add sticky faces and fingers to the mix.

S’mores are one of the stickiest, messiest things on earth to eat—yet we feed them to our children when they’re covered in—and surrounded by—dirt with no easy means to clean them.

Oh, and then let’s try to put our sticky, sugared up children to bed in a tent together. Crrrraaaazzzyyyyy.


10) Somehow, it’s FUN.

Despite my seeming disdain for the whole thing, camping was, in fact, a fun experience. The fresh air and trees and being immersed in nature was pretty darned tootin’. We could see stars—oodles of them. Watching deer prance through our campsite at Crater Lake was somehow more thrilling than when they prance through our yard at home. And when you’re camping at national parks, well, the scenery can’t be beat.

Even the inconveniences were positive in the end. The fact that our kids were covered in dirt was balanced by the joy in seeing them revel in the great outdoors without any modern-day distractions. And the truth is that being forced into moderately uncomfortable situations is probably good for most of us. It’s definitely good for me.

So as it turns out, as fond as I am of my creature comforts, I may just be one of those crazy people who enjoys camping. (As long as I call ahead to clarify the toilet situation and carry my own soap from now on.)

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 39

  1. Oh man! You buried the lead! Yeah, camping can be a pain (especially with kids), but I think the memories are worth it. I’m glad you still overall had a good time. (And, yes, even though I love camping, I do struggle with the toilet situations. LOL).

  2. Yes, totally crazy, dirty and ridiculous and I love it so. The solitude, the time to think and clear alpine air is just too much to handle. This write-up is crazy, and I love it too.

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  3. I love camping. I especially love it when we’re out of cell range. 🙂 and — save the small ends of your bar soaps during the year, and any hotel soaps — those are the perfect size for the “no soap” problem. 🙂 ♡♡♡♡♡

  4. We did a 6 week cross – country camping trip and discovered KOAs. I felt safer than our first few nights of camping in random campsites, AND they have warm showers and real toilets!!! A must when you are camping /traveling for an extended time! But yes, overall I am also one of those crazy people who likes camping 🙂

    1. Not really – if I recall correctly, they ranged from $20-40 in 2008 when we did our trip, with $30 being average. Since they are individually owned, different locations vary slightly, I think FL may have been one of the more expensive locations. But it was nice to know we were safe and had access to bathrooms, and during our trip we would often set up our tent and bedding, go explore a little and leave our stuff knowing it was safe. The offices usually have a little store with essentials, some have laundry, and games, books, etc to use. Some KOAs have pools and playgrounds as well, and one we visited had a “lounge” area with couches and an entertainment system where we watched some DVDs! “Kamping”, as they call it, is great for families with kids, and long term camping when you need showers, etc!!

    1. We love that tent! We even broke one of the poles that attaches to the center thingy up top and thought it was done for, but we opened it back up and the pole just goes where it should be! It might not do so well in a windstorm or something, but we camped another two nights with no problems. And it sets up so fast. Love.

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  5. Try house boating! (At lake Powell) my fam has been doing it for a couple decades now. Similar to camping but the dirt doesn’t become a part of you because you are jumping in the lake many many times a day.
    Also, more than nylon and zippers keeping you from neighbors. 😉

  6. I will gladly take pit toilets over squatting in the woods, but yeah, nasty. Did ViviAnne tell you about last time we went camping with them? Try pit toilets while nine months pregnant. 😛

    1. I don’t think ViviAnne shares any camping horror stories with me on purpose. 🙂 Although we did enjoy her story of the black bear sitting down at their picnic table and eating all of their food. Why would you even go camping at all nine months pregnant?!

  7. Perfect timing. I’m cleaning out my basement tomorrow, and one of the categories in the “to GO” pile is all my camping equipment from Kate’s childhood. We at LEAST had the good sense to camp in a place that had wooden “cabins” (glorified tents) and FREE showers/bath houses with hot running water (no extra fee), but we still had to do all our cooking outdoors and tramp through the dark (and the bears) at night with flashlights.

    What on EARTH was I thinking?????

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    1. I enjoyed my 3 night of camping with you all a lot and if “easier to obtain water” (you forgot to say that that long walk to the water faucet [and of course the flush toilet] was uphill) can be found, I will bring my tent happily.

  8. Pit toilets are the biggest reason I prefer not to go camping! Besides the fact that my poor old body doesn’t do so well sleeping on the ground, the pit toilets are the worst. And why do you have to pee a million times more often when you are camping than at home?

    1. I agree! There needs to be a more positive view of spending time in nature! There are much more than 10 virtues to camping. I was just on a camping trip in the FL keys. Stunning waterfront space, waking up to nature, no technology to bother me, time with family over a bonfire, kayaking/paddelboarding, and I could keep going.

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