Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was scared of trees as a toddler, hated the feeling of grass underfoot, and despised the dirt. She grew to be an adult who loved the view of the outdoors from her window—but never would entertain the idea of actually walking out there. Her family begged her to go camping, but she adamantly refused—and promptly booked hotels instead. The end.
Just kidding. She got divorced, and everything she knew about herself and life was gone. OK, the third-person jig is up. That girl has always been me, and I have a confession: I am a recovering high-maintenance woman. My Instagram name is daintylaney, and my friends have (for years) ragged on my “appreciation” for the finer comforts of life.
The problem I found with that way of living? I really wasn’t living. I let my own preconceived notions, aversions, and fears of the outdoors dictate not only my life but also the moments I share with my own family and friends. So last fall, I took inventory of the places in which I found myself fearful, and I decided to step out of that place—and try camping. That first experience? Breathtaking and uncomfortable all at once.
I knew I was starting to connect with myself out there in a way that I had not before. But I also felt inept—and never more aware of my high-maintenance tendencies. Forging on, I created a whole new lifestyle by camping all over the United States and finding new ways to merge my two worlds. I created an experience that makes camping enjoyable and comfortable. If you are like me and the thought of “roughing it” makes you cringe, you might be surprised how many products are out there to completely revolutionize your camping experience into something magical. No hyperbole intended.
There is a bit of investment involved. However, that investment pays dividends in priceless memories with my loved ones. I would not have experienced these things otherwise. And the experiences gave me a new-found confidence and sense of adventure. As much as we spend on family vacations each year, the one-time investment here is sound and long-lasting. Plus, you can acquire them over time—as I did—and discover what creature comforts you are willing to sacrifice and which ones are non-negotiable.
Any woman who has endured the months of growing a human knows that our hips just aren’t built for a night sleeping on solid ground anymore. After a couple of months struggling with the soreness, I stumbled upon this genius creation online and promptly went all in. This tent actually hangs in the trees the way a hammock does, and it was a literal game-changer.
I’ve tested the limits, and I can attest to its size and comfort. It also keeps us away from bugs and critters at night which, for a high-maintenance gal, remains of the utmost importance. Super-easy to assemble, this tent takes no more set-up time than any other tent on the market. On cool, clear nights, leave off the tarp and sleep in the trees underneath the stars. Breathtaking. You can also purchase a hanging ladder separately—depending on how high you want to hang it. The tarp does a great job of locking in heat and keeping out any moisture.
The Sleeping Bag
I never realized the importance of a good sleeping bag until I started winter camping. The masses of blankets were not only taking up packing space, but they were cumbersome to lug around camp (and wash when we got home). The Helio sacks from REI have been great because, while the mummy bag design provides warmth, they are also lightweight enough to enjoy in the summer months. You can get extra silk liners so your bag stays nice and fresh. And, with a very small and lightweight design, they barely add anything to your pack.
I carried one of the extra pillows from home the first few times, but it always grossed me out to bring it home smelling of campfire and dirt. These inflatable pillows are comfortable and fit easily into the hood of the mummy bag, so they don’t move around. I’ve started carrying them on flights as well. You just blow them up to the level of your comfort. Deflated, they fit easily into the sleeping bag sack—or your purse.
Lugging a bag of my own cooking utensils got old quickly. And I also realized the importance of the camping motto “Leave no trace.” This handy little kit contains a cooking spatula and spoon, condiment packets, salt/pepper shakers, scraper, cutting board, hand towel, and a scrubber. It still has enough room for the all-important bottle/wine opener, knife, and any other smaller items you might want to bring along.
Additionally, I found this portable 5-liter kitchen sink that unfolds for dish washing and easily refolds into a tiny circle. The cutlery on a ring completes the set and also fits well inside the cooking kit. I know plenty of ambitious folks who bring their own portable oven to make grandiose dishes like lasagna and pies, but let’s be honest: this is a time when I am content to let my man take over, throw some burgers and potatoes on the fire, and let me sit back for an evening off cooking to enjoy a glass (i.e. bottle) of wine.
Speaking of Wine…
This little set is the perfect carry-along for wine lovers who aren’t willing to compromise their Cabernet just because they sip in the great outdoors. I personally bring the Mom-wine of all time, the Bota Box, and enjoy it in my Yeti Rambler cup. Despite whatever scorching temperature surrounds it, my tumbler keeps my drinks as fresh and cold as the minute it was poured—for at least an hour.
The Ultimate Chair
Most of us just bring whatever tailgating chair we have in the garage to the campsite. However, my incredibly thoughtful sister hooked me up with this gem for my birthday last March. Admittedly, I’m a cuddler. And especially on cooler nights by the fire, it bummed me out when I couldn’t snuggle next to my man or the kids. Ozark saved the day with this camping love seat—complete with drink holders. Now we bring it everywhere. While the size seems overwhelming, it actually folds up and packs the same size as any other tailgating chair. Enough said.
If you haven’t heard of Eno hammocks by now, you are seriously missing out. I carry this puppy everywhere with me because of the easy set up. Out walking at Radnor Lake? Toss it up, take a break, and have some quiet time to yourself. Family picnic at Centennial Park? Boom. It also provides great snuggling time with your honey or your kiddos, and we spent the extra $20 to get their LED battery-powered twinkle lights to add ambiance. When not in use at the campsite, they decorate the bottom of the kids’ play set in the backyard for nighttime play.
Campfire coffee is an essential part of the experience. Some of us remain a bit more discriminate about our coffee than others. Two options work well. First, this java press is legit and easy to maneuver in the outdoors. We actually found another method because my man is partial to his coffee roasting over the campfire in the old Stanley canister he’s had since the dawn of man. While camping in Chattanooga, we stumbled upon a local coffee brewer, Mayfly, that offered quick brew single packets. They hang on the side of the tumbler, and you just pour hot water from the campfire on it to brew directly into your cup. We really liked the idea of supporting a locally-owned establishment. And their coffee is outstanding. Toss in some individual creamers of your choice. Morning made.
I know. The whole point of the great outdoors is to unplug. And I do. That being said, I want to still be connected in case of emergency—or for the occasional picturesque Instagram post. We also do a lot of music streaming on a portable speaker, so keeping battery life is important while we camp. This solar charger might be my most solid investment in regards to camping (other than the tent). It simply hangs off your pack (or on the picnic table all day), and at night, it will fully give almost two full charges when hooked up to your normal charging cord. It’s been a literal lifesaver on some more adventurous trips. And it provides the ease of mind knowing we are always accessible in case of emergency.
The Hygiene Factor
Ladies, let’s be honest: this is the biggest reason why we high-maintenance women don’t like to camp. We have our beauty routines, and the world is not our bathroom. It takes more effort for us. Sea to Summit makes Wilderness Wipes that are actually refreshing and do a great job of removing the sweat and grime better than your average baby wipe. Plus, if baby wipes are a constant presence in your daily game? You associate the smell with dirty diapers—no matter how fresh their claims are. I still carry the mother of all baby wipes (Huggies One and Done) with me to whatever bathroom source I find.
Whether you score the godsend of the “nice” camp bathroom (I see you, Henry Horton!) or just find a spot in the great outdoors. So far, as far as primitive camping goes, I haven’t found a suitable substitute for a toilet, but c’est la vie. Chances are, if you’re high-maintenance gal, you’re not primitive camping anyway, so it’s pretty much moot. I do use the kitchen sink for my nightly beauty routine with a portable mirror and lantern (or my iPhone light).
I want to reiterate that this is the high-maintenance woman’s guide to camping. I’m sure some moms out there rough it all the time with their families. And I applaud you for doing what I could not all these years! I’m a firm believer that life is too short to drink cheap Bourbon or keep the good china boxed. I don’t want to sacrifice comfort in the great outdoors. That being said, the most intensively reflective and bonding experiences I’ve had with my loved ones has been on our camping excursions this past year.
My daughter sees that her mom has become more than what I thought I could be. I feel strong, brave, and adventurous. I’ve shown my son that I can bond with him in ways that he typically associates with his father. This concerned me when I became a single mom. But more than anything, I’ve proven to myself that I could do it. I ventured outside of my boundaries to experience a side of life that I had shut out. I swam in the natural waters of Juniper Springs, Florida and woke up to the majesty of the mountains in Washington State. I fell asleep to the sounds of waterfalls beside me and explored the hidden gems around Nashville. All I have to do is carry a backpack with this gear, and the old me and new me mingle together in wonder and pride.
In the words of one of my favorite musicians, life is short but sweet for certain. Let’s live like it.