Author Topic: 3 months camping, what did I learn??  (Read 8693 times)

Offline phlat

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3 months camping, what did I learn??
« on: July 26, 2010, 05:34:44 PM »
(this whole camping trip was done on a whim and on the fly)
Yes, you read right. Wife and I camped (and two other couples were there before we got there, and were still there when we left) for 3 months straight in the fall, sept to dec 2002, on a beach in CA with not one night not spent in the tent.  It wasn't remote by any means cause it was on a navy base (wife was a few months from getting out so I flew out to stay).  Only daily creature comfort we had was an unheated shower house. (waking up at 5am and showering in an open shower when its 40F is a challange)  Our tent was a $109 cheapo from Walmart.  Big enough for 8 people, tall enough to stand in, and a screen porch.  Came with a rain fly that just covered the windows. in the top.  

As you can see, el cheapo tent.  Also, one of the cheapest priceless mod's we did you can see as well.  Shower curtains!!!  The dew was beyond horrible (temps down to 40F, back up to 80F during the day's the fog burned off.) We clothes pinned these to the tent poles over the 'wings' of the tent to keep the dew from seeping thru the nylon.  We slept under one wing, (far side of this pic... you can see thru the screen), and our stuff was stored under the other.  I can't describe how annoying it is to have dew on the roof of the tent, you roll over on the air bed, bump the side and you get rained on.  There was still some from the humidity in our breath but no where near as bad.  

The way the tent was orientated was adjusted.  The pic shows its final position.  We closed it up to the bushes as much as possible, and the 'wing' that is away from the camera was pointed directly where we noticed the high winds came from.  The rain fly was held on by bungee's.   Well, in a stiff wind, it would life up and we'd get rain in the tent.  So, cheap twine was purchased and staked down.  Would keep it all in place in all but the gustiest winds.

During the day's after I did my house cleaning (sand... there's no where it WON'T go) I would comb the beach for drift wood, bamboo (burns good, but too fast), and anything I thought we could use.  Found over two dozen stakes, including a nice set of 12" rebar ones someone lost in the sand.  Also found several 1/2" poles from some form of clothes rack. That was in the trash so I knew they wern't coming back for it.   Also found a pallet one of the weekenders trashed after they used a whole stack for fire wood.  These would become critical, very very soon.

One night we had a storm roll in, and stay for 36 hours.  At 2am the wind was getting bad gusting to 40+, and the rain was starting.  The end of the tent that was upwind was caving in.  After going out to double check things, it hit me.  I grabbed the camp axe, and all the 'junk' i found.  After beating 2 of  the 1/2 poles in the sand about 2 foot from the end of the tent, i slid the pallet over them creating a wind block. Worked pretty good, but the tent was still getting thrashed.  So i broke out a tarp, draped it across the pallet and that blocked ALL the wind.  I attached 2 lines to the top of the tent to hold the left over tarp above our wing of the tent.  Tied part off to the bush that was near by, and beat a pole in the ground to hold the other side out and away from the tent.  Had to poke some holes in the tarp to stake down the front of the pallet into the wind eventually cause it kept bending the poles.  Worked great.  We did eventually suffer a broken tent pole on the upwind wing of the tent.  The pole that goes right above the zip down window/door shattered.  Wrapped it with twine and it lasted another month till we packed up to leave.  

We cooked alot of meals on a coleman propane stove.  Nothing fancy tho.  Just big cans of stew, pasta/sauce or things like that.   No refrigeration, so we didn't over cook.  We balanced out our meals with dry foods like crackers, some chips, peanuts, and such.  Some meals were simply cold cans of soup (the rainy days we didn't want to cook outside).  Sunday mornings we'd drive into town, or just go 'downtown' on the base and get a warm breakfast at Mc D's.  Yea, not roughing it all the time.  There were times to get away and go do things, but thats no different than camping someplace for the neighboring touristy things, tho our's were more of the rare trip to the movie, bookstore and such. We would spend many hours at a bookstore.  

We did hang out and chat with the other two families there. One couple was living in a camper, but changed to the tent. The other guy had his wife come in on the weekends.  And there was another guy, Vietnam Vet, that stopped there for 2 weeks or so.  His tent did fold over in night #1 of the storm we had, and I gave him my small 2-3 person tent I went out there with.  Help him set it up and trash his other tent.  We actually set up in the middle of the bushes behind our tent as there was a nice pocket it would fit in.  Worked out great for the next few storms that came thru, then off he went to save the world.  We soon learned that one of the other couples seemingly random trips to the shower house at night during storms were not to 'get out of the weather', if you know what i mean.   :-*  Guess the waves crashing on the rocks helped cover up the sounds.  

When we finally packed up and headed back home to KS, we ran into one problem.  Beds.  We had not slept on a normal bed and once we got to the first hotel we were so uncomfortable for the first few hours we couldn't sleep.  Course after 16 hours of driving the next day, the next bed was a welcome sight.  

If i had to do it all over again, hell yea.  Several time's we'd just go sit on the rocks, saw some dolphins at the same spot i proposed to her.  The walruses would fart n belch all night.  The campground was in the flight path for the runway so we could sit out at night as watch planes fly over, or watch the fishing boats off shore.  Good times indeed.

(i'll add more details if I recall them)

In short, i learned:
Full rain fly is a MUST
Tarps are good, but only if you have enough of them,
Even junk can be used effectively
A 1# propane bottle goes a long ways (we only used one the whole time)
Snacks are a MUST if your active
Radio's are a MUST to keep tabs on things
Its amazing how many people think your knucking futts, but will sit and ask questions about how you did things, then listen in awe.
Walruses fart and belch.... alot. All night. It does not end.  And it does not smell good downwind.
The beach isn't 75F and sunny all the time like people think.

« Last Edit: July 26, 2010, 05:38:18 PM by phlat »

Offline mxitman

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Re: 3 months camping, what did I learn??
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2010, 12:49:48 PM »
That's a great story, I'm sure you learned some valuable lessons and also realized you don't need as much as some people might think. Some of my family still can't figure out why we go backpack camping all the time, hike for days and sleep on the ground etc. I love it and prefer it over car camping, I like to be more remote and away from even the business of a regular campground. I second on how far propane cylinders will go, I camped out for 8 days and used only 1 of the small half cylinders, i brought 3 with me and ended up bringing 2 full ones home.. waste of weight IMO.

You did mention burning driftwood and bamboo, were you able to have campfires all the time or was it occasionally based on the amount of driftwood in the area? I live near the beach in Washington and some areas have a tremendous amount of wood available while other stretches of beach have nothing. If you were going to rough it on the beach you would need to find one of these inlet areas that wood collects at.

Did you collect much sea-life to eat? any Seaweed, mussels, clams or fish? Up here there is abundance of food just waiting to be eaten, I like steamed mussels and clams and nothing beats fresh fish cook dover an open fire. Thanks for the story!

Offline phlat

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Re: 3 months camping, what did I learn??
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2010, 01:15:13 PM »
We could have fires whenever, but it was pretty much limited to when we collected enough wood to do it and make it worth while.  Usually a few weeks of wood collection for a few hours of fire. It helped when a storm would blow stuff up on the beach.   As for the sea-life, no.  Sadly, i did zero fishing or looking.   Wife isn't a fan of sea food so I didn't try.  The guy that was there for a few weeks and had his tent cave in did.  He would set up his 2 surf rods and do his yoga for 45 minutes or so twice a day.  He caught a few small rays and fish.  Nothing that needed muscling in tho. 

As for lessons, oh yea. Lots were learned. 

Offline tech132

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Re: 3 months camping, what did I learn??
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2010, 11:12:30 AM »
Sounds like a great test of skills and equipment. At this point you should know where the holes are for a survival situation.

Offline grizzman

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Re: 3 months camping, what did I learn??
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2010, 01:29:38 AM »
Thanks for taking the time to share the great story. It sounds like a great experience.