I just bought my first camper in March of this year and had taken it out once in April for a family camping trip and that went very well. It’s a 26 year old pop up (pup) and I’m not an experienced rv camper…yet. I’ve been wanting to camp solo for a long time and have been too scared to camp in a tent alone (didn’t want to get eaten by a bear, seriously). So…I thought I would try it in my pup. The “well, almost” part comes in with my husband, Rich and youngest daughter, Carter. They came to help me set up camp and Carter spent the night with me the second night (because I bribed her with a steak dinner).
This trip was pretty much a disaster, but I like to think of it as my weekend of lessons learned. It started off ok. I had a nice, shady camp spot near the bath house, set up the camper without any problems, started a fire and enjoyed time with my family for a few hours. Then, after they left to go home, I sat outside for a while longer to enjoy the fire and when it was time to go to bed, I remembered that I hadn’t checked to make sure the electricity worked. Well, it didn’t. No lights. I thought, “That’s ok, I have a lantern as a back up, and I have new batteries (from a dollar store). No big deal.”
1. Check the electrical before your family leaves the campsite when you’re camping alone.
2. Don’t buy batteries from a dollar store (OK for gaming remotes, not camping alone).
Needless to say, the batteries didn’t work. I did remember I had a tiny little flashlight, which provided just enough light for the middle of the night trip to the bathroom…alone.
Next up, was the sink drain. I had connected the water, attached the drain hose and tested the water that evening. Seemed fine, but it wouldn’t drain. It was dark, I was alone and left the water in the sink all night, not thinking about the consequences. Well, the next day I noticed the sink finally drained (yay)…into the cabinet below. What a mess!
3. Check the drain hose to be sure it’s not kinked. That was the problem. The water drained into the cabinet and not through the hose. Won’t let that happen again.
Now for the portable camping stove: I had a 2 burner camping stove and was so excited to fire it up the next morning to boil water for my new french press coffee maker. I decided that a good cup of coffee was one of the most important things for camping in the woods. I love sipping my coffee outdoors in a camp chair, listening to the birds chirp in the morning. Relaxing way to start the day, except when your stove doesn’t work! Found out that the arm that attaches to the propane had a leak…Not good. So, what did I do? I went home, 20 minutes away to make my coffee. I was desperate at that point.
4. Don’t buy a cheap camp stove! Go for a Coleman or better. (Went to Walmart and bought a new Coleman single burner stove for the rest of the trip…and new batteries).
After my cup of coffee that morning, my friend called to go for breakfast and strawberry picking. That sounded fun, so we met up. The only problem? I wore the wrong shoes, tripped and fell with all my weight on my knees, elbows and palms of my hands on sharp rocks. I was scraped and bruised but kept on going. We picked strawberries and went back to my campsite to sit in the shade and talk the rest of the afternoon. We ended up having a great time!
5. Don’t wear loose clog-like sandals strawberry picking. Flat, comfortable tennis shoes would be much better.
The second night went much better and as I mentioned earlier, Carter came to stay with me in exchange for a yummy steak dinner that I made on my new stove. We had lights by then because the campground staff helped me trouble shoot the problem. It was simple, just push the breaker button (after we found it).
6. Ask for help when having problems with your camper.
7. Bribe your daughter with a steak dinner.
The third day it was time to pack up and go home. Remember, my hands, elbows and knees were bruised and scraped. That made it more difficult to pack up. I could only use one hand and relied on my 17 year old to help (she was awsome). There are a few things I did wrong (but won’t do again). One, I almost broke Carter’s foot by dropping the camper tongue on it. Luckily her feet were a few inches away and not underneath and two, could have killed someone. I didn’t have the camper hitched correctly, so it started rolling backwards. Glad I had it chained so it only went a few feet back. A friendly neighbor came to my rescue and hitched it up again.
8. Ask for help when hitching up your camper (If you only have one hand available).
9. Make sure everyone’s feet are out of the way.
10. And always make sure the camper is chained to the car before you drive away.
And now for the main lesson…When things don’t go as planned, think of it as a learning experience and move on.