I know I’ve been a spotty blogger lately. Some of it has just been life, you know, doing those life things to me and mine that kinda suck, but are supposed to build character, or make me a better person, or just make me wish I hadn’t picked this week to try to cut down on wine consumption. But some of it is also because I have increasingly become an outdoorsy person. For a city slicker, I mean. All you hardcore people who live out in the middle of nowhere and build cabins and have your own chickens and sheep, you go do you. I’m talking about post-summer, post-fall outdoorsyness, which, believe me, if you live in a city, practically makes you like Grizzly Adams (look it up, young ones).
But COVID got me started on the friluftsliv kick last winter. Then this year between my friend making his own boat so we could paddle on any river with access, no matter how precarious, and the discovery of stealth camping, well, let’s just say things may be getting out of hand. Normally, we stop camping and paddling in early October. But the November weather has been so mild, a week ago we paddled to a new place to stealth camp and clipped, sawed, and cut our way to making the site suitable. And this past weekend we got in the boat with all the gear for an overnight. The days were actually quite civilized at sunny and 65/50 degrees. At night it got down to just above freezing, and it wasn’t that bad. Do you hear me, and do I hear myself?
I willingly slept outside in a tent in 34 degrees. And I actually had fun.
A key part of the fun is that my friend loves to cook on an open fire, so if you are thinking about camping in all weather, you definitely need a friend like that. Showing up and eating is definitely a big plus.
The tent we have is only for 3-seasons, so rather than just accept that and find a cozy B&B with a fireplace, we’re looking into winter camping. I’m telling you, it’s a slippery slope. My brother has done it, and when he would tell me stories about his adventures in the snow, I listened attentively, always suitably impressed, and also, in the same breath muttered, that’s crazy.
It is crazy, because I’m starting to look up information about hot tents, tent stoves, and thinking about temperature ratings for sleeping pads. Meanwhile my friend is watching YouTube videos on how to make your own winter tent. I blame those darn Norwegians for getting me outside last winter with their friluftsliv idea, and I wrote a blog post about friluftsliving the hell out of fall. And this year it looks like I’m going to friluftsliv the hell out of winter. And not just with the fanciest equipment, which heaven knows I can’t afford. It’s doing it in a way that has a reasonable cost and isn’t so cheap that I’ll freeze to death. There’s a sweet spot in there.
Which is why this blog post by REI caught my eye. I did get my tent from them, but at a used equipment sale. As far as I could tell, the person returned my tent because they used it once and it got pine tree goop on it. It has stood up to multiple camping trips in hard, sustained rain storms and kept us completely dry. (I know, I know, what is wrong with me?). So I trust REI’s products, but let’s face it, some of the equipment is eye-poppingly expensive and highly technical, which promotes a kind of exclusivity. The blog post points out: “Over the years, a predominantly white outdoor industry, which includes brands like REI, has shaped what it means to get outside, positioning recreation as something technical, rugged and aspirational, enjoyed most often by men in the backcountry who are affluent, non-disabled and white.”
The post talks about the history of how that came to be and argues that redefining being outdoorsy, like playing basketball outside, is a win for everyone. It’s too late for me, I’m beyond saving, but there is still hope for you, especially if you just walk outside. You’re outdoorsy! Congratulations. And check out the REI blog post.