Camping Tetris

I took the boys camping over the weekend. A great time was had by all, except that it was minus a gazillion in the mountains at night (I swear to god snow turned up on the peak next to us while we were there. Total bullshit. It’s STILL AUGUST, MOTHER NATURE) so no one got any sleep at all because we were too busy staving off hypothermia and convincing ourselves that camping is a good idea. Usually by 6 am we had come to terms with camping and drifted off to sleep, just in time for the kids to adopt tigger-on-ephedrine levels of energy and start bouncing around the tent so hard I am sure from the outside it appeared like we had set loose two small bears in there. It felt like that when I was woken up with a kamikaze ninja jump onto my head.

Anyway, this level of sleep deprivation always takes its toll. On the way out to the campsite I was patting my back for my superior packing skills. Everything was organized neatly into the back of the van, rolled up in their respective bags. Never mind that I had to text my husband eleven times to bring stuff out that I forgot; eleven is about average for a trip to the mall. For a weekend of camping, eleven is great news. When I got out there my neighbor had already set up her campsite, sans husband, with two small children in tow, and in the spirit of looking like I was up to the same level of amazingness I attempted the same. And it happened! The tent got up, the van got unpacked, the beds got set up and the husbands arrived to a very charming scene. With beer. Everything was perfect.

The ensuing lack of sleep caused us to flunk the post-camping cognition test. Despite the fact that we trashed a few chairs, ate most of our food, and drank all the beer, we could hardly fit everything back into two vehicles, much less one.

This is exactly as full as the van was on the way there. Packing up we took up the same amount of space.

Plus this.

And this.

Pre-camping, I put this pillow in the bag in under 30 seconds flat. Post camping I wandered around the campsite for nearly 20 minutes trying to just get one corner shoved in with this result:

A drunk lab rat could do better.

Putting the tent back in the bag proved to be too much for my damaged psyche and if it hadn’t been for my husband I would have just abandoned it. I might have cried a little. I might have also stomped my foot like a five-year old.

I have never loved this man more. Not even on our wedding day.

So in the spirit of this, I’d like to share an open letter to Coleman, purveyors of camping products everywhere.

Dear Coleman;

You make a fine camping product, it’s true. Your brand has been a part of many cherished family memories. But your storage bags are not condoms, ok? It does not matter if there is a little extra room in there because no one is going to get pregnant if it falls off. Let’s be honest, most of the people buying the fluffiest sleeping bag around are driving a huge SUV and parking it eleven feet from their tent. There’s no need to kid ourselves about conserving space and packing light. Think of the Sunday morning hung over and sleep deprived among us when you’re designing your products. We’re just pretending to be outdoorsy; make it easier for us to feel superior and you’ll have a lifelong customer in me.


The Rollergiraffe

P.S. Also, if you can figure out an un-tippable camping chair I would be forever grateful. I am just saying that balance is not my best attribute after six Pilsners. I am funnier, just not more upright.


  1. Roller Giraffe,
    I hear Coleman is coming out with compostable camping gear. And its own beer which once drank, will transform itself into a magic maid who will clean up after the camp site. I was sober when I wrote this.
    Le Clown

  2. I hike but I draw the line at camping. I just don’t do the no sleep thing and until Colman makes me a magic sleeping bag that is as comfortable as the two (yes I said two) feather beds I sleep on it ain’t going to happen. Oh and I want real espresso too.

    1. On the whole I agree with you. I am only attempting to like it again because my house suffers when all that kid energy gets expended inside. And my Italian neighbor worked out how to do real espresso next time, so I think we’re set. Plus, beer helps every situation.

          1. Forget the cot and the heater. Get one of those Colemna twin size air mteeassrs and something to pump it up. Then, bring along a 1-2 thick foam pad and a good sleeping bag, or two mediocre ones. If you pump an air matress up nice and firm and then put a 2 foam pad on it, it can be more comfortable than your mattress at home. But it is equally important to keep warm when you sleep, not just have a nice pad. So, make sure that you have a sleeping bag that is rated for 20 degrees lower than the coldest temperature it will be at night or your going to freeze your bum off. So, if you aren’t sure about how good your sleeping bag is, bring a 2nd sleeping bag or a few extra comforters to go over and under your regular bag.DO NOT sleep on an air matress or cot without having something on it to insulate you from the air, or you WILL get all the heat sucked right out of you. A 2 thick foam pad is an excellent insulator, but an extra sleeping bag under you would work OK too.

  3. The last time we went camping, we got there late, had to take a campsite that had NO flat spots for our tent, then it rained and the water ran down the hill under our tent, then as we were cooking dinner, we heard a loud beeping sound as the huge RV backed up into the campsite across the road from us. Then we heard a very loud motor sound as the guy in the RV started the generator that he had placed 20 feet behind his RV and 10 feet from our tent so he could watch TV in his Taj Mahal of an RV…We packed up in the dark and went home. Now I just hike or scuba dive or ride my bike or ski and keep my nature fix to the daytime. Then have a luscious shower, nice dinner and go to sleep in my Sleep Number bed. Just sayin…

    1. Cathy, I think you’re on to something. We were camping right next to a tourist town that has many, many fine hotels. I am sure they have heat too.

      I have also done the packing up in the middle of the night.. throw the barely dismantled tent and all of it’s contents in the vehicle thing. And that was the end of my camping experience for a long while.. darn those kids.

  4. As a mountaineer and former shop-rat (for about seven years, I believe), your camping story makes me smile and laugh. I believe that in general you have to spend at least three hundred and fifty dollars U.S. to get a car camping tent that has a reasonably-sized Bag. This is similar to the hotdog/bun numbering mystery. You are not alone in your frustration.

    1. Guess how much money I am spending before we attempt this again? And I never understood the hotdog thing until I had toddlers and realized there is no relation at all between number of buns and number of hotdogs consumed. Sometimes all a kid wants is a bun with ketchup on it, you know?

  5. Having lived as a kid through nights at a gadzillion below, trudging through snow, portaging in the rain and doing my business in the raw, I now consider roughing-it as having only one single-malt scotch available as an after-dinner drink at the lodge. If I tip over, the bartender just sits me upright and feeds me another.

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