It seems like there is more camping gear than ever before but fewer people actually camping. It kind of makes sense. There are so many obstacles to camping; campstacles, I call them.

People have this idea that they want to camp. An hour in REI or browsing all the neat toys online is enough to make you want to go hike the Pacific Crest Trail with your dog in winter. The inner outside person really roars, suiting up in those cool clothes that go as great in a Zoom meeting as they do staring down a grizzly.

But the campstacles always seem to get in the way, which explains the recreational junk hauler, which you fill with everything you might possibly need. In fact, the junk hauler and general death of outdoor fun can be exactly traced to the Boy Scouts, who ruined everything with “Be prepared.”

If their motto had been “Be skilled,” then people would have focused on being able to do shit rather than buy shit. But I digress. Ish.

Below is a list of the campstacles I’ve discovered as I watch people enjoy the outdoors while indoors. It is axiomatic that once the sewer lines are hooked up and the a.c. is plugged in, you will never see the pilot of the SS Crap again until it’s time to undock and float to another alcoholing station.

Campstacle 1: Alcohols. The alcohols go great with camping. You can sit there and trees will magically grow up around the alcohols; campfires will merrily burn and smoke (mostly smoke) as the alcohols are wrestled down and drunk; you may even stagger to the alcostall, trip and have an alcofall, or return to the fire to discover your true love swilled the last of the tequila, resulting in an alcobrawl. But despite all this magic, the reality is that with camping it’s really hard to quickly and seamlessly plug in the blender, carry the 100 lbs. of ice, or set up the margarita machine. So, junk hauler.

Camptacle 2: Shitting and pissing. Most of modern life revolves around these secret rituals. I say secret because although everyone does them, they are terribly embarrassing. To think that food becomes shit which comes out of your anus! Ick! To think that your frontside equipment doubles as a drainage pipe for urine! Gross! Camping requires you to do all this not publicly, but in a public toilet that other people MAY be using at the same time and that other people CERTAINLY have used in the past. Think of all the syphilis on the toilet seats! The drizzly penises and leaky vaginas that have infected all the doorknobs with covids and general uncleanliness! Better to spend $150,000 on a junk hauler than share backsides with some stranger like they do on Pornhub. Hey, wait …

Campstacle 3: Food. People don’t cook, and even the ones who do don’t do it thrice daily. And even the best camp pros out there can’t cook up a pan of Oreos. With camping, even though the back of your car is filled with a small supermarket, what if you got hungry? And by hungry, I mean “What if the exact thing you want to eat right now isn’t available?” When all you do at home is microwave, having a tiny propane stove, an onion, some bacon, eggs, bread, garlic, shallots, and a mushroom at your campsite might as well be a box of semiconductors with which you’re told to assemble Big Blue blindfolded.

Campstacle 4: Coffee. I’m going to choose between a) Not having organically sourced, locally roasted espresso-based froofy morning drink and b) Instant coffee? Fuck you very much.

Campstacle 5: Porn. This comes in two flavors, naked bodies and shopping, mostly shopping. Camping puts you in places where there is wifi less than half the time, and cell coverage only 99% of the time. So how are you going to buy more things without instantaneous access to the latest news about the hurricane in Florida, not to mention the upgrades available to your junk hauler?

Campstacle 6: Mobility. This is real. The vast majority of people in junk haulers could not get up off the ground unassisted. Make that most Americans. And the ones who could, couldn’t do it more than once. The second time would require a knee/hip/back replacement. Sleeping even more so. Most people cannot sleep on the ground, as in, their eyes will never close no matter how many drugs they take. How much of a vacation is two weeks of sleep deprivation? Right. Add to that the impossibility of changing clothes in a small tent, where you have to scrunch up, twist around, and throw your hips and legs up into the air like a baboon doing a mating display, and you will understand that people are too fat, too stiff, too out of shape, to brokedown and too wore out to squeeze into some tiny fucking tent that is only 20′ by 20′ and bigger than the typical Hong Kong apartment for a family of six.

Campstacle 7: Timber checking. The junk hauler lets you proudly display the amazing cost of your trailer. Marble countertops? Got those. His/Her showers stalls? Check. Problem is, the most expensive iteration, even with the bidet, is still just a fucking bus, and the pilot is a bus driver. Seen Bill Gates driving a bus lately? Me, either, champ.

Campstacle 8: Tools. Camping relegates you to what you can fit into the campsite. Chainsaw, inflatable raft, small outboard motor, the tiny stuff. It’s only when you ditch camping for junk hauling that you can bring in the heavy artillery, like that guy with the table saw, or the bus driver pulling a Mercedes “four-wheeler” atop which was a small sailboat. Had he only figured out a way to drag around an airplane he’d have been able to seamlessly cover Mother Earth without ever having to talk to another human being.

Campstacle 9: Humans. Ugliest fact about camping? Other humans are camping next to you, especially in the “remote backcountry,” where yesterday there were a hundred people at the ranger station for camping permits and where cars were parked along the road leading the the trailhead for TWO MILES. With a junk hauler you do not have to listen to their night farts or sleep apnea, witness them beating their children, overhear the magic convo generated by the alcohols, or have their perfect, NFL-velocity spiral rip a massive hole through the side of your $500 froo-froo tent. In a junk hauler, if some of the other alcoholers make noises that interfere with your alcoholing, you simply shut the triple-insulated door, turn up the volume on 72-inch screen, and twist the pour nozzle on the margarita machine.

Campstacle 10: Weather. In a tent you are subject to these primal elements: Cold, hot, moist, dry, wet, and bored. In a junk hauler you are subject to only the last one, until the hitch to your $80k pick-them-up truck comes loose and you get to crawl on your back on sharp gravel on the edge of a freeway under the belly of the junk hauler and try to adjust the whatsit so that the thatsit doesn’t fall out of the wheresit and cause the whole fucking thing to uncouple at 80 mph.

Campstacle 11: Bicycles. With camping you have to painstakingly strap the bikes onto the back of the car, or worse, ride them to the camp site. Then you have to unstrap them and lean the car against them as you imagine the exercise you will soon do and the diet you will immediately embark on after the dream vacation, all the while capturing lots of the alcohols. In a junk hauler, the bikes are safe deep within the storage bowels so they don’t even get dirty from leaning the car against them. No floor pump ever needed. Ever. And the rich fantasies about health and exercise are every bit as good.

Campstacle 12: Sewage. Freud teaches us that as children we are fascinated by shit. What infant hasn’t joyously discovered the organic Play-Doh created hourly in his own diaper, and happily run to show mommy/daddy/babysitter what fun things can be made with it, how easily it is applied to walls and beds, and how neatly it fits under the nails? Junk hauling shows us that this fascination continues into adulthood and beyond. Whereas in camping you have to leave your poop in a public toilet or bury it, with a junk hauler you get to carry it around with you for days at a time, euphemistically called “gray water” but practically known as shit and piss and tampons and used toilet paper. Then you get where you are going and instead of flushing it down a toilet, you get to put on industrial rubber gloves, climb under the junk hauler, and carefully attach complex sewage lines that drain all your sewage into someone else’s offal hole. Fun! Just make sure the seal doesn’t leak, which it never, ever, ever does!

Campstacle 13: Prescription drugs. This is probably the most serious campstacle. With camping you can run out of oxycodone at any time, not to mention any of the 25 pills you take to regulate the fact that you sit in a chair all day angsting about your investments. With a junk hauler you can take your back-up pharmacy with you, never wondering where the next sleeping pill to which you have built up an almost 100% tolerance is going to come from.


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10 thoughts on “Campstacles”

  1. You make junk hauling sound soooo appealing. Do you think it’s perhaps squewed this year because of Covids?

  2. Nothing wrong with “Be Prepared”, because at a time in the past, that assumed be skilled. The reality now is it really means “Be Equipped”. And REI, the slick cookbook for the two yacht family, doesn’t help.

  3. Biggest impediment to camping, at least in California? Getting a space. I have a tent, don’t need a lot of room. Still can’t get a space.

    Second is, as you’ve noted, is getting the alcohol-infused campers to STFU and go to bed at night. Awesome in the mornings, though!

  4. We’ve backpacked, bike-camped, tent-camped with kids and dogs (the best, until the teenager decides she can’t go look at redwoods and elk without makeup), and considered getting a rec trailer to haul dogs and bikes. So far, we have K9 Sportsacks for 2 dogs, and we hook up a small dog trailer behind the tandem for the old dog, who rides in style. We’re up to 7 miles so far, before the dogs in backpacks get squirmy. That’s fun, too, but not practical for touring. Thanks to you, I can live my bike-camping fantasies from my patio, and now that the smoke from 3 local wildfires has filled the valleys, I’m wishing I was a couple hundred miles north and closer to the coast. Carry on.

  5. When I was a kid my family used to go tent camping at Pinecrest every summer. Everyone tent-camped then. The last sojourn with family was 1960.

    The next time I went to Pinecrest was after I left the fold, around 1980. I was shocked to see that all the tents were replaced by rec vehicles. Something bad happened in that 20-year span.

  6. Ah I remember those days of campground camping. We used an old pump Coleman stove and pump lantern and a small tent for 4 of us but in the next camp-spot there might be a family clan of twenty with generator electric lights and loud music. On the other side might be a 30 ft RV with a kitchen sink. Eventually tired of this campground camping we discovered high-altitude wilderness backpacking. Brutally hard but spectacularly beautiful and fulfilling.

  7. Sea Kayak camping, where you can get to spots where the nearest human is miles away. Since taking that up, I just can’t do campground camping, ever.

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