Camping is a quintessential summer activity, but let’s face it; we’ve gone soft. On my last camping trip, I packed pillows, blankets, a stove, a hammock, books and approximately a month worth of junk food. I brought along a car adaptor so I could blow up our three air mattresses with ease. On the way out the door, my friend asked if she could run back in to grab her straightener. Her. STRAIGHTENER.
Camping in the field is another game entirely. It’s not even a game, really. It’s challenging, team-building, possibly life-threatening work, but you’ll return knowing you fought nature and won. SO much cooler than glamping. Think you’re tough enough? Here’s how to try it for yourself. (Sort of.)
1. Say goodbye to your lounge chair.
As the owner of a 7-passenger SUV, I can proudly say that I have used 100% of my available cargo space on a single, five day camping trip. All of it. Camping with friends and family is about fun and convenience, not necessity.
Camping in the field, however, is more like extreme backpacking. Kiss your air mattress, propane heater, bluetooth speakers, and endless snacks goodbye. Creature comforts are out, necessities are in. Imagine you’re about to be stranded in the wilderness, alone, and you can only bring what you can carry. Marshmallows, White Claw, and movie projectors probably don’t make the cut.
2. Forget relaxing and get to work.
This probably goes without saying, but day drinking, movie nights, and leisurely hikes aren’t exactly the point of being in the field. You’re expected to follow a strict schedule; you have a job to do, after all! Your exact duties will likely vary, but sightseeing isn’t on the agenda.
3. Pick people for practicality, not play.
Look, it’s not personal. Your buddy who starts day drinking right after rolling out of a hammock at noon just won’t be able to keep up. Nor will Pinterest camp mom, who shopped for an entire cooler’s worth of perishable ingredients to try out the nine different gourmet campfire meals she added to her camping board. By the time she’s made a three-course campfire foil brunch and mimosas with fresh-squeezed OJ, the rest of the troops will have left her behind.
Day drinking dude and Pinterest mom are ultra-fun to camp with, but camping in the field isn’t about fun. You’ll be camping with those who are the most useful to your mission, so you better learn to like them. Even if you’re not best buddies, you’ll learn to appreciate their unique skills.
4. Expect the unexpected.
If a sudden rainstorm hits during a family camping trip, you can stuff all your junk in the car and book it to the closest Motel 6. Or maybe a nice hotel with a hot tub and room service. You’ve got options. When you’re a soldier, your only option is to find the driest patch of land, build a shelter with what you have, and wait it out. If there’s a dust storm, your options aren’t much better. You just have to deal with it, basically, and hope you don’t come across a demonic-looking camel spider. Shudder.
5. Prep your survival skills. They’re not just for show.
Who here has watched Bear Grylls eating bugs and drinking reindeer blood from the couch? Just me? As it turns out, Bear Grylls actually served in the British Army reserves from 1994–1997. He was trained in desert and winter warfare, unarmed combat, climbing, parachuting, explosives, and (duh!) survival. His training actually gave him much of the knowledge he needed for his more well-known career as a survivalist and TV persona. While you probably won’t have to resort to drinking animal blood at your cozy family campground with running water, bathrooms, and fire pits, crazy survival skills like that are actually useful in the field. While one hopes you never need them, it’s best to have them in case you do! And if you don’t, you can retire and go into reality TV.