We’re urban people. Since we started dating, Jose and I have shared a common bond over the energy and movement that an urban setting brings. Sure, we’ve camped, but spending a year on the road living out of our car is another level. When planing this USA to Argentina adventure, the language and the countries felt familiar and exciting, but it was the thought of randomly parking in the Andes Mountains and camping in the middle of no-where that would put us in uncomfortable territory.
Where will we camp? What will it be like? Do we just drive up to a beach and pitch our tent? How does this work?
Each day before hitting the road, we do a little planning. We pull up our ioverlander app which is an app created by other overlanders (travelers who travel via land) with information on campsites, hostels, road blocks, and mechanics. The info is crowd sourced and based entirely on reviews from other overlanders’ experiences. We pull up the map, plan how long we want to travel and see what campsites are in that area. The review might say: “Weak wifi, but clean toilets.” or “Cold showers, but nice shelter to sit and eat.”
As we’ve learned, there are certain things that we look for in a campsite. Although we have proudly done ‘wild camping’ with no toilet, shower, or remote sign of other human life, there are some amenities that we would perfer. When choosing a campsite, these are the most important factors IN ORDER of importance:
#1) Toilet. I’m not referring to a white tile room with a burning sugar cookie candle and succulents in the window sill. Just a toilet. If it flushes, wonderful. If you have to pour water from a bucket into the bowl to flush it down, fine. But at least a toilet. Now if this toilet came equipped with toilet paper, soap, and a towel, you know you’ve officially arrived at ‘glamping’ level.
#2) Water spicket and sink. If Latin American families don’t have a washing machine at home, they often have a large stone sink with a water facet called a ‘pila’ where they can wash their clothes and dishes and their babies. If there is a pila at the campsite, thats a wonderful delight. We do have a bucket of water and collapsable tub we can use, but its great to have water to heat up soap and make our morning coffee. Also, if I don’t have to squat in the grass to clean our dishes, thats a plus.
#3) Shower. Cold shower. I’ve only showered with hot water a handful of times so far, and it hasn’t been that bad! It definitely wakes you up and gets you ready for the day. We’ll see how I do in the Andes’s mountains with cold water. I will say, it does get old always carrying a plastic bag of clothes and soap into the shower with you, so if there’s a HOOK somewhere around this water source to hang this plastic bag and not get your clothes all wet from your shower, thats a win.
#4) Common Area/Roof. This might sound obvious, but when you’re camping, you are always outside. No couch, no roof, no floor. Just the sky and the grass. Although sitting outside in our camping chairs and staring at the stairs is one of our favorite things, sometimes the weather isn’t feeling as romantic as we are. Especially when it rains, there is nothing better than some shelter and a hot cup of ramen to warm up your evening.
#5) Kitchen. Our rig includes a fridge, stove, grill, and basic cooking items. But when a campsite has a kitchen, you can use brilliant things like toaster and blender and you’ve felt like you truly hit the jackpot. Having more than one burner to cook several items at a time and saving our propane gas for the Bolivian desert is very useful. I transform to wonder women when I have several things cooking on different burners, doing the dishes as I go, and all the while sipping wine like a pro.
#6) Wi-Fi. (Weee- Feee). Although nature allows us to un-plug, when you have the goal of reaching Ushuaia, you have to plan as you go. Having access to maps to plan, internet to search sight-seeing attractions, and ability to connect with friends and family becomes very valuable.
In addition to these factors, we always take into consideration the price (range $0-$25, usually around $10-$15), the convienience (if it is in the area where we plan to drive) and the company (if there are other overlanders to share a beer and cook together).
Fast forward 4 months on the road and not only do we enjoy camping, we prefer it. If most of these 6 things are provided, we prefer camping over a hostel. I assumed we would do 50% camping, 50% hostel, but so for our trip has been more like 80% camping. And we’ve loved it.
Camping has been transforming our habits. You can’t help picking up trash on the beach when you sleep on the beach. You can’t help saving your water when you only have a limited amount with you. You can’t help washing out your plastic bag and re-using it a million times. There have been days where you truly feel like nature is giving you what you need: shade when its hot, sun when your clothes need to dry, and sometimes the grass feels softer than a carpet. When she gives so much, you can’t help take care of her back. No wonder so many campers are tree huggers.
I don’t have to tell you about the peace that nature brings, the natural gym/play ground it provides, or the clarity and healing of mind and soul that mountains or desert or cloud forest or beach can bring you. Just get out there. Asap.
Now can I say we’re ‘Camping People’?
It’s hard to not burn the toast. Appreciate your toaster. Thats a pretty incredible invention.