As you can imagine, the dynamic is quite different from bike camping. Even though I take some of my lightweight kit along, most of our gear is “heavy”, with an emphasis on convenient. You can see the big tent, which gets used once a year, as well as the canopy for meals, which also gets used once a year. We have electric and access to a water spigot. The campsite has warm showers and a freezer full of ice.
Our family is one of the few that uses a tent. Most others are accomplished car campers with trailer units ranging from pop-ups to 32′ condos with bump outs and canopies. To their credit, these owners make frequent use of their trailers, either travelling over the summer or setting up at remote sites similar to owning a cabin in the woods.
The other difference that takes some getting used to for me is the proximity to other people. I’ve concluded that my true personality is introverted, because I like the aspect of getting away either by myself or with a small group where we can share more intimate and deeper conversations. Family Camp is more about general socializing with a large group, often boisterous and fun loving.
Fortunately, we are usually able to set up in a quiet area and people know us enough to realize that our family enjoys time alone, so we can mix it up – general socializing at times and quiet reading or conversation among ourselves.
Because of school and job schedules, I got to go out by myself on Friday and set things up, and spend the night by myself. I got some hiking in, caught a fish with my Popiel Pocket Fisherman, found my winter Montbell bag to be quite comfortable on a chilly night when even the trailerized campers were complaining about the cold, and I listened to coyotes carrying on in the middle of the night, which I have never heard before.
By Saturday the family arrived. Red had prepared enough food for a month, and brought along more “stuff” that the manly-man in me had to complain about. We dealt with bugs, building fires, and all the typical camping stuff that resulted in a pretty nice time.
Sunday night we were greeted with a thunderstorm. The big tent still had a small leak through the rainfly, so I improvised to cover that up with a tarp and then moved into my Kelty for the night which I just happened to throw in the truck. That gave us a bit more room to arrange things away from the damp floor, plus I am the early riser of the family, so it worked out.
Still, with heavy camping and rain, there is always so much more to clean up and dry out. It will take about a week of hosing stuff off and letting it dry in the sun so we can put it all away dry and pull it out next year.
At the end of the day I don’t regret heavy camping because it’s nice to get away with the family to relax. Still, I have to confess that my heart is really into bike camping with a lot less gear to worry with. The whole trailer thing does seem to be a lot more convenient, but we’d need to use it a lot more than once a year, and I’m not sure the fam would be into that.
So I’ll continue with my S24O’s and mini-tours; and I’ll just have to grin and bear it one weekend a year for heavy camping.