Last week I went on my very first Cub Scout campout. More specifically, I went on my very first Cub Scout campout with my 5-year old son Jake, which makes it sound so much more legitimate than the singular “I,” which would have been really creepy. My daughters spent the weekend with my ex, so Jake and I brought along my current husband, mostly because he is also Jake’s dad. (I like saying “current” husband because it’s fun to watch the troubled look on people’s faces when I say it, and fortunately Tom’s got a great sense of humor so he doesn’t care).
Because I have been incredibly uptight for pretty much my entire life, I’ve been making a point of not taking life so seriously by not over-thinking everything. I tell myself this in retrospect, because the cold hard truth is, I didn’t spend as much time and thought as I should have on packing for this camping trip.
The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared,” so I figured that if I forgot anything, these responsible scouts would probably have it in spades. And they did turn out to be quite well stocked when it came to preparedness items like a first aid kit, fishing bait and new batteries for a dead flashlight. However, Camp Whitsett is a far cry from Motel 6, so if I thought that they might have something like a spare disposable shower cap, I was sadly mistaken. Fortunately for me, I didn’t take a shower the entire 3-day span. Unfortunately for my fellow campers, I didn’t take a shower the entire… you get the picture. Or at least you can picture the smell. By the last day, I literally felt like Charlie Brown’s buddy Pig Pen with a putrid path of stinky stench trailing my every step, followed by a tornado of flies.
Naturally a Native American or Aborigine can survive in the Mojave Desert or Australian Outback with just a spear and a loincloth, but I’m a 21st century woman with survival skills that don’t run past the BRAT diet or placing the Magic Mommy kiss on a boo boo, so my haphazard packing skills could actually affect the safety, well-being and comfort of the rest of my family. Here were some of my packing faux pas:
The first night, I unwrapped a sleeping bag from the plastic kitchen grocery bag I store it in and found that instead of grabbing the sleeping bag, I packed our 6-foot stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster from Halloween. Besides not being very functional, it’s really not the face you want to see late at night in your flashlight beam when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
I ended up stealing Tom’s sleeping bag and being the manly man that he is, he forged his bedding from a couple of bath towels. I also didn’t pack his toothbrush or a jacket, and I mistakenly brought Emily’s water shoes instead of his. On the other hand, my 16-year old’s feet may actually be bigger than my husband’s.
Because my summer attire traditionally consists of a camisole and yoga pants, that’s what I packed for clothes. The outfits came in a variety of colors, and I thought I was so fancy by bringing one extra combination in case of an emergency. However, I had no cover-up to protect my torso from the sun except for a hooded sweatshirt which would have been unbearably hot since the mercury hovered over 90 degrees every day. And it took only about two seconds of actual camping for me to realize that I really should have packed a pair of pants with some pockets. I went through my cargo pants stage only a few years ago, so you’d think I’d know better. Instead, I improvised by stashing bottled water, the camp itinerary, my camera, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and my hat in places like my socks, my waistband and my cleavage.
A few weeks ago my family and I spent three nights in Palm Springs and Tom, Mary and Jake had all purchased new sun tops in red, yellow, and blue respectively. I nicknamed this crew The Primary Colors, and when they traveled in a pack around the pool it was easy to spot them. For the camping trip I packed Tom’s and Jake’s shirts, but instead of grabbing Jake’s blue, I packed Mary’s yellow, so Jake spent the entire weekend in a sun shirt that stretched down to his knees.
One thing I deliberately didn’t pack was our tent since we were told that the camp contained not only tents, but also cots. It sounded so luxurious – as if Camp Whitsett would be like Lexus camping rather than VW Bug camping. It turned out to be more of the VW variety – and not like the recent Beetle model but rather more akin to the beater VW van that needs to be pushed down a slope and kicked into gear to get started. The tents were the Army reject variety with occasional holes, placed over punctured plywood. Their canvas bottom edges didn’t quite reach to the ground so any number of small creatures and giant insects could wander in and cozy up. The cots were made of metal springs that were so stretched by decades of overweight Den Leaders that it was like sleeping in a hammock. There was a thin ancient mattress over the cot, but it still didn’t keep me from lying down and having my butt immediately fall to within an inch of the floor. Fortunately the stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster came in handy. I shoved him under the mattress and it filled the gap made by the sagging cot. Almost. I couldn’t flatten Frankie out evenly, so it felt like I was sleeping on a pad covering several rolling anthills. And frankly, with the number of stray bugs in the tent, that might not have been far from the truth.
Overall it was great fun and a terrific learning experience about what to pack for our next camping trip which takes place in only a couple of months. The first week of November we’ll be roughing it at Catalina Island’s Emerald Bay. After hearing stories from the other Cub Scout parents about the choppy boat ride to the island, there’s only one thing I know I absolutely must be prepared to pack for that trip: