A friend recently asked me if I have a tent he can borrow. I shuddered for a moment — horrifying memories flashing through my mind — then I replied with a quivering voice, “Uhh, no. Our family doesn’t camp.”
My wife and I actually tried camping a few times when we were first married. However, after one particularly gruesome experience over three decades ago, we vowed to spend every night for the rest of our lives sleeping in well-constructed buildings. And if a well-constructed building is not available, we will settle for a Motel 6. (Nothing personal, Tom. I kind of like it that you “leave the light on” for us.)
There are, I admit, some positive aspects to camping: the camaraderie, enjoying the great outdoors, barbequing, and seeing nature up close and personal rather than through the windshield of a car while cruising down the Interstate at 70 mph. The only downside to camping is, well, the camping.
After an enjoyable day outdoors, when the sun finally sets, instead of going inside a well-constructed building (or a Motel 6) to get a good night’s sleep on a real mattress with clean sheets, campers crawl into a nylon or canvas tent and lie on the lumpy ground inside a musty sleeping bag. Even if the ground is smooth and level (which is rare), and even if that little air mattress doesn’t spring a leak in the middle of the night (rarer still), it is impossible to sleep well inside a tent.
In addition to a noticeable absence of Sealy Posturepedic mattresses, there are three other minor reasons why you can’t get a good night’s sleep while camping — plus one major reason.
First, the minor reasons: (1) No air conditioning. Hey, I admit it, I’m a wimp. But once you get used to a climate-controlled bedroom with crisp, dry air, a stuffy and sweaty tent just doesn’t cut it.
(2) No bathrooms. This is not a matter of wimpiness; it’s a matter of having a middle-aged bladder. It’s hard enough at home to stumble out of bed at 3 a.m. and stagger down the hall, but in a tent, you have to wiggle out of your sleeping bag, put on your shoes, figure out how to unzip the tent flap, and then wander around in pitch darkness trying to remember where that particular campsite’s communal latrines are located. Unfortunately, long before you can find the latrines, you wet your pants. But it doesn’t matter because of —
(3) Dampness. Let’s face it, the great outdoors is a very wet place at 3 a.m. Everything is covered in dew — a major reason mankind invented well-constructed buildings (or, when sturdy construction materials were not available, Motel 6’s). Even if you avoid wetting your pants during the night, by daybreak all your clothing, your sleeping bag, your hair, and your will-to-live are very soggy.
This brings us to the MAJOR reason why you can’t get a good night’s sleep while camping: insects. On that gruesome night inside a tent many years ago, my wife and I made a horrifying discovery: entomologists very easily could have named earwigs “nosewigs.”
I have no idea why those creepy little buggers were so fascinated with my nasal passages, but suffice to say my wife and I sat up the rest of that night in the tent hugging each other tightly, whimpering, and counting down the seconds until sunrise. Not a very pleasant experience.
If my friend finds a tent to borrow, instead of sitting up all night whimpering about the insects, he can always drive back to my house and sleep inside my well-constructed home. I’ll “leave the light on” for him.