Who Buys a Camper BEFORE They Even Try Camping?

We Do.

We are your typical suburban family, living in a comfy house with a nice backyard. A backyard that our kids never play in. This is something that can be better explained in my post It’s 75 Degrees and Sunny So Why the *Bleep* Won’t My Kids Play Outside?! But you get the point.

In the spirit of trying to get our children to enjoy all of the bountiful pleasures that nature has to offer, we thought camping would be a good idea. Or rather, glamping.

Not having a family cabin to venture to every summer, like so many other Minnesotans, has led us to take quite a few lake-side resort trips over the years. Through these, we came to know that the outdoors provides us with that slow-down and take-it-easy sort of relaxation that we so desperately need after a long winter. However, we also know that we’ve been spoiled.

House-keeping, all-inclusive meal plans, and kiddie daycare are just some of the things we’ve paid the big bucks for. They are also not included in an RV by the way, no matter how fancy it is.

Yes, those resort vacations have been wonderful but we’re not rolling in the dough here and even a few days can add up into the thousands. So they were planned carefully and limited. Sometimes saved up for, sometimes on credit. Always with a tinge of guilt.

Recently, we were invited by my bestie and her husband to stay in their RV on her family’s ranch over Sturgis this summer. We figured we’d hit up Mount Rushmore while we were there so we researched places to stay. Suddenly, having our own RV became this amazingly, brilliant idea.

But could we afford it? Sure, we thought. We’ll get a used one, gut it if we have to, and fix it up. Plus, the 10-15 year payment plans most RV dealers offer would help. Of course we’d have to find one that would be big enough for a family of five, small enough to fit snugly in our driveway, and light enough for Adam’s truck to pull.

We had to rule out fifth wheels and travel trailers with separate bunk house rooms because they would be either too heavy or too long. We still needed the bunk beds though, because who wants to make up 3 kiddie beds every night and put them away every morning? Then a U-Shaped dinette was needed to fit the whole family around the table and I still wanted an extra couch jammed in there somewhere. Weeks of searching went by and everywhere we turned there seemed to be something new to consider and let’s not forget, we both had to agree on it. It was like buying a house, just mini-style, so it was both fun and frustrating. We weren’t giving up though, we were deeply and emotionally invested now.

And yet, we still had no idea if we’d even like camping.

Would our spoiled children complain about bugs, boredom, and lack of video games? Would mommy be O.K. with spiders, dirt, potential creepy rodents and (gasp) constantly hand-washing dishes? Would daddy get tired of packing and unpacking the heavy stuff, hooking and un-hooking, and maintaining all of the bits that go into a travel trailer?

There was really no way to figure all of this out in the middle of February in Minnesota. Besides, we were hoping to get a good deal on a camper before the peak season of RV sales hit and there was also this little thing of Covid-19 impacting things…

We decided to go for it anyway. We looked at some crusties, almost bought one to flip but found some rotting wood and mold just in the nick of time to sabotage that deal, thankfully. The thought of not knowing what could be behind the walls of a camper, after years of rain and snow, completely nixed the whole idea of buying an old-ass trailer in the first place. In all honesty, neither one of us would have been happy with an out-dated trailer and making it pretty would have taken so much work.

After a month of OCD online searching, and with my own pickiness narrowing it down to a few favorites, I had my sights set on this particular cutie that was move-in ready. It was now up to the hubby to get us a great deal if he liked it.

My husband loves wheeling and dealing. I literally cringe when it starts to go down. More often than not, I will casually walk away while the buyer and the seller get into it. It makes me so uncomfortable because thou cannot tell a lie, nor can I stomach listening to the volley of fibs each side is lobbing back and forth. That doesn’t mean I am not thankful for my husband’s skills, I truly am, especially when we come out at the better end of it. If it were left up to me, we would get taken for a ride. So he takes care of it and the deal is done. I just don’t want to know how he got there.

We ended up getting a phenomenal price on our perfect cozy travel trailer. Now we just had to go camping to see if we’d actually like using it!

Not an easy thing to do when the whole world is shut down. Having campgrounds closed during our friend, Corona, has always perplexed me though.

When you are camping, you are outside and typically several yards over the recommended six-feet social distancing rule. The sun is helping to naturally disinfect many surfaces like the good little sun does, and wait–at the end of the day your family goes to sleep in their perfectly enclosed camper. I get that tent camping could be somewhat different if you need to use public bathrooms and showers but in an RV site with full hook-ups, that wouldn’t be an issue.

Surely camping is safer than mingling with the hoards of people in Walmart or Cub, or my work…or my husband’s work, for that matter? Don’t get me wrong, I have sheltered my family in place for forever now, it seems, and we always use the better be safe than sorry sort of practices. However, I still have questions…so many questions…

But I digress…

Finally, Wisconsin opens up and we’re out. You should have seen my kids that first full day at the campground. They hadn’t left the house in two months other than a few walks around the neighborhood with lil’ ol’ me. No playdates. Certainly no sleepovers. Not even a six-feet-away conversation with the neighborhood kids. And visits with dear Dee Dee and Papa? Forget it!

So it’s no surprise that my chickens couldn’t wait to flee their quarantined coop. Every morning they flew outside so fast that they left a trail of feathers behind them.

One of my boys even had his most coveted of all things on this earth, Nintendo Switch, along for the car ride and we had also brought a couple of laptops for distance learning but, beyond school, those kids didn’t touch them or beg to use them. I don’t even think Fortnite crossed my son’s mind. Not until we were packing up, that is.

My wildlings were outside from sunup to sundown.

Those children of mine played basketball with each other, tossed a football around, went on hikes along the trails with us, and dug plenty of holes in the soft sand with their buckets and shovels. The playground just had it’s caution tape ripped off the day we arrived and so shoot me–I let them play on it.

Our days were full of grillin’ and chillin’, camping cocktails for mommy and daddy, and campfires with s’mores for us all.

The camper was great and had everything we needed. My husband drives semis for a living so hooking up and towing was a piece of cake for him. We did have a little hiccup trying to figure out how not to destroy our water heater with antifreeze still in the lines but we figured it out. That sewer hose though…now that’s some interesting shiz if you’ve never seen how one of those work before…

I think there is still a lot to learn in terms of how to do things better or faster, what things we truly needed to pack versus stuff that just took up precious space, and how to manage our time better so we don’t get to the campground when it’s dark…yeah, that sucked a little.

We initially set out on this first camping trip to get a good feel for how everything worked in our camper–that was our main goal. Achieved. We definitely learned a lot but we ended up having a lot of fun, too. Bonus.

I am most thankful for the experience we gave our kiddos and the continued experiences we will be able to provide them with in the future. They are technology-addicted, self-centered little brats most days but camping turned them into adventurous explorers. They became children again, spending hours getting dirty with nature and finally using their imaginations. Those beautiful imaginations.

At this time, we have no interest in putting money into a seasonal campsite that we keep coming back to, like you would a cabin. I do see how there would be benefits to doing that though and it could be a really nice escape for some families. It’s just not for us.

That is because we, too, want to be explorers with our children. The whole idea of going to a different campground each time, checking out different sceneries and amenities each one has to offer, is the idea that hooked us into RV camping in the first place. One night we could be on a peninsula within the Mississippi River and spend the next day kayaking on a sparkling lake.

We have dreams of Yellowstone, Torch Lake, Mount Rushmore, and Washington D C., among so many other places. It’s exciting to think about all of the places we could go and how traveling with a camper could make it all so much easier.

I’ll admit, we might be a little crazy for buying a travel trailer without even knowing if it would be something we’d really enjoy. However, it turns out that the risk we took was well worth it–we all had a great time and we are definitely looking forward to our next great glamping adventure!

La Crosse, Wisconsin

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