What if I told you, that I camped, outside, for an entire month this year. And I did so without quitting my job. Crazy, right?! Admittedly, the title of the article is a little click-bait-ish, but it’s true. How did I manage to spend 30 nights, under the starts, since January 1, 2018, without skipping out on my job, or better yet, get fired? The answer is quite simple, and it’s not really a secret. All 30 of those nights, well they weren’t consecutive.
I know, I know. I tweaked the truth, just a little bit, to get you here, but I promise I have a point. This goal of mine has been left unaccomplished for the past 3 years. But as of Sunday, October 21, 2018, I’ve accomplished my goal of spending 30 nights outside. This includes nights camping out in the backcountry, in campgrounds, on public lands, in tents, in hammocks, etc. As long as I wasn’t sleeping in an actual bed and there wasn’t a real roof over my head, I counted it towards the 30 days. I’ve been trying to complete this goal ever since I read this article by the adventurer Alistar Humphrey’s. But this was going to be my year. I can officially say, “I’ve spent 1 of the 12 months this year, camping outside in the wilderness.”
What does it actually take to spend 30 nights outside? Realistically, it comes down to about 1 full weekend (Friday & Saturday nights) of camping each month, and either 3 more weekends or 1-2 long weekends. You’re probably questioning, “But how do you get 1 weekend a month, when November-April are always too cold to camp. And there’s no way my summer schedule could allow you to make up those missed weekends by camping twice a month, let alone adding in extra weekends.”
You doubts are valid, and I never said that getting 30 nights was going to be easy. But just remember, a majority of what’s preventing you from camping out are just excuses. There are campgrounds and campsites quite literally everywhere. So access is not an issue. But the cold weather is definitely an issue, which leads us to 1 of the best solutions. A 4-season tent. There is absolutely no way my girlfriend, dog, and I could have gotten nearly as many nights outside without this tent.
We started camping this year as early as the first weekend in February. A 4-season tent differs from your normal tent because it has walls that are thicker and virtually no mesh, making it less susceptible to the cold and wind. And the thicker walls trap in the heat when the outsides temps are below freezing. Having that 4-season tent makes all the difference by removing most excuses we always had for camping, So yes, without a 4-season tent, we would not be able to camp 30 days in a year.
Spending that many nights has taught us plenty of lessons. The first, to be prepared for any type of weather, even if it isn’t forecasted. We’ve woken up to soaking wet tents, frozen fingers and toes, snow covering the ground, you name it. It seemed like if there was even a 1% chance of some type of weather event, we were guaranteed to get it. Especially the cold spring winds in the desert. Because of all those cold, windy nights, I don’t take any chances with the dropping temperatures over night. I make sure to have plenty of layers on when I go to bed so I’ll be good to go if the temps keep dropping, or am able to remove layers if the temps level off or begin to rise by morning.
A second, to make due with what you got. It seemed like every trip we forgot one thing or another. Some times it was cookware, others it was a warm jacket. And one time we brought the stove, but it was either broke or the cold air shrunk the seals and we couldn’t generate any pressure in the gas cylinder. Whatever the reason, we needed to make due without it. And guess what, life went on. Sure, if we were in the backcountry for 5 nights and our stove didn’t work, it’d be a much bigger deal. But you can go 2 nights without warm food or coffee and still be fine.
After really committing to camping trips this year, a third thing we’ve come to realize is that every camping trip cannot sustain entirely off hotdogs and granola bars. Instead, we’ve spiced things up and brought in the cast iron pan to do some of the heavy lifting. Breakfasts of granola bars have been replaced with eggs, hash browns, and sausages, cooked to perfection over a fire. For lunch, we try to bring some type of salted meat and hard cheese, like a salami and Gruyère, that we know will last out in the hot sun to eat on a hike. And dinners, oh boy dinners. These have been all time, and only getting better. Don’t get me wrong, we still regularly have hotdogs, but recently we’ve spiced things up. Pastas, steaks, tacos, fajitas, spaghettios, rice, bbq beans, you name it!
After everything we’ve learned over these 30 nights, one thing has maintained true. Spending a night under the stars is a great way to reset you body and mind from the busy, hectic, chaotic lives we live. Even if your body exhausted come Monday morning, and it takes you until Tuesday to recover. The time staring at a campfire instead of a screen is priceless. And the constant tossing and turning on your sleeping pad while you do that thing that resembles sleep, will make you appreciate your plush, comfy bed even more. And more than that, there’s some primal aspect about being in nature, dependent upon only yourselves for a period of time, that fills you with a sense of accomplishment. Even if you don’t take any of that away with you; camping, especially with friends, is always an epic adventure!