My first time camping in a tent on the ground was when I was 32 years old. I just started to know my partner who had been on numerous camping trips himself.
That seminal, first camping time was during a bike trip outside of Toronto. It meant cycling with our gear, sleeping bag for over 70 km. on my first bike touring camping trip. He had an orange nylon tent which regrettably had a hole. It rained that evening.
Camping –a Cultural Experience
Camping is a cultural experience, because not all cultures celebrate the great outdoors in this way. Not at all. For Chinese immigrants, especially those from rural villages like my parents, camping was just odd to them. They appreciate tame Nature…flowers and trees but no large wildlife wandering around and wonderful Nature from a safe distance. Sleeping on the ground and outside in unheated surroundings, to them, was equivalent to family memories of poverty, lack of electricity and hardship –something they’d rather not remember. Sure homo sapiens, were “camping”. But let’s get real: long ago it was survival and daily living until you died. Camping is a choice –unless you are homeless or live in nomadic society.
Anyway, for first few camping trips, I watched my partner do most of the tent pitching or later, I unpacked bags.
We camped during some bike trips ranging from 100 km. to 1,000 km. For long bike touring trips, approximately 50% of our accommodation would be camping in parks while remaining evenings were whatever hotels and bed ‘n breakfasts, I snagged in advance. I was happy to take upon accommodation booking for pillows and real bed mattresses. As a couple, we camped for first 8 years of cycling.
Iron-Endurance: Other Long Distance Cycling-Campers
Then later, I gradually didn’t press for camping experiences. I needed more efficient use of limited vacation time: less time on tent set-up and de-camping. Vacation was time for exhilaration of adventure, discovery on bike and for pampering myself with a clean hotel or inn. Jack got his camping-cycling fix by embarking on several solo trips –across Canada twice. For his early retirement self-gift, he spent 6 months in New Zealand cycling and camping solo.
Now, I haven’t camped over the past 15 years. However, biking and camping as two interrelated activities on a trip, has ramped up my appreciation of other cyclists with more iron endurance to do it on cross-continent, even worldwide trips for several months.
Making and Having Memorable Camping-Cycling Trips
Here are some hard-won camping-bike touring combo niblets:
· Camping in woods has not reduced mosquito attraction to me. Nor my doubled-size swelling bites after multiple mosquito attacks. I have resigned to may be the fact that mosquitoes are attracted to my natural scent or who knows what.
· Wearing even thin hiking pants for mosquito protection, is super hot. A super drag in 30 degrees C summer humidity.
· Always slather on sunblock on exposed skin. Even wearing a light long sleeved shirt is protection. I nearly ruined the start of 4 wk., 1,000 km. cycling trip when I had 3-degree sunburn on my arms after only 2 days of summer cycling in Nova Scotia. A clean white man’s shirt I bought from Salvation Army saved me.
· Make sure there’s energy food for snacking. Even before breakfast. After decamping on hot early morning in Nova Scotia, we cycled for 45 km. in hot humid morning for breakfast since we forgot to buy food beyond last night’s supper. I was ready to collapse after this baby ride.
· Just have enough energy after a 80 km. ride, to pitch a tent in 80 km/hr. winds by the Atlantic Ocean on Prince Edward Island beach.
· Nothing more delicious than fresh lobster by a Nova Scotia ocean beach campsite, just boiled by the fisherman a few kms. away from our campsite. We saved our precious fuel for other food. It’s one of my evening camping post-cycling evening memories glowing in the dark.
Yes, I wished I had camped in my teens. I probably would have thought less about the hard ground, despite my sleeping bag mattress. I wasn’t the only one deficient in camping experience until adulthood: it applied to all my 5 siblings until we each left home and formed our own adventures. Several siblings have embarked on camping with their respective families with car or van for less arduous tripping –at least from a cycling perspective.
For a very enormous country like Canada with millions of hectares of wilderness, camping most definitely is your cultural baptism by Nature.
Featured large photo from inside yellow camping tent at the start of this post: View out to Marahau, New Zealand 2001. During Jack’s solo bike touring-camping trip for 6 months in New Zealand.