There are people who love camping. I’m not one of them. My fear of camping or “FOC” is so great, I start to shudder when I see an “I’d Rather Be Camping” bumper sticker on a minivan stuffed with gear. My head knows that camping is a budget-friendly way to bond with the family. But my heart is convinced that, if I head into the woods, I won’t come out alive.

You won't find me going into the woods. If you're talking camping, count me out.

Nothing’s more romantic than a tent in the woods. Why does it terrify me? Photo: Pixabay

Is it Okay to Hate Something You’ve Never Tried?

Remember the Battle of the Peas in your family? It erupts at every dinner table some time between the ages of 4-5. “Eat your peas.” “No.” “Why not?” “I hate peas.” “You do not hate peas. You ate them last week.” “I hate them.” “Why?” “They’re gross.” “But you ate them last week.” Pause and repeat in an endless cycle that, depending on your parenting temperament, ends in a lengthy standoff and tears or with peas scraped into the garbage bin.

What made your child turn against peas? You’ll never find out. Perhaps some rebellious pre-school punk started bad-mouthing the legume. Years later, that same kid will tell your child there’s no Santa.

I wish I had someone to blame for why I hate camping. Or that I had one legitimate reason to fear it, based on reason and experience. But I don’t. Why? Because I’ve never, ever tried it and don’t intend to, if I can help it.

As the school buses start to roll again and football returns to TV screens, I relax a teeny bit. Summer’s passed and I’ve dodged the camping bullet once again. After I embrace my relief, I feel guilty and ashamed. Isn’t camping an all-American, family-friendly way to vacation? What’s the matter with me?

You won't find me going into the woods. If you're talking camping, count me out.

My family enjoys hiking. Camping? That’s another story. Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/Optimism Traveling Mom

So Much Stuff

To gain some peace in my day to day, I’ve learned to react less and reflect more. So I thought I’d spend some time addressing my FOC. People camp all the time so there must be a way to do it successfully. But my first problem is with the vast amount of equipment involved.

It’s taken me decades to abandon a very bad habit – overpacking. However, if you don’t overpack when you camp, you might die. Or at least that’s the way I’ve rationalized it. You need sleeping bags and pads, fire starters and water canteens, whistles and compasses. Every “Camping Essentials” list is pages long. Reading one exhausts me.

Then There’s All That Nature

Don’t get me wrong. I love the out of doors. I’m an avid day hiker. I love to open a map, strike out on a trail, do a little rock scrambling, and then enjoy a cold beer.

However, I don’t think I could ever get comfortable enough to actually sleep out there with all those natural things like rocks and cold and wind and rain. And, frankly, I’ve hit the age when a night’s sleep sacrificed takes me a week to recoup.

Let’s Not Forget Snakes

The funniest thing that happened during our summer family reunion was when my suburban born and bred son scooted inside our rental house to retrieve a sweatshirt and exploded back into the yard screaming, “There’s a snake in my room!”

His country cousins went to investigate, scared the intruder out a hole, reassured my son that it wasn’t poisonous, and went on to regale us with snake-killing stories.

My son slept on the couch the rest of the trip.

I am my son’s mother. It is my hope that I go to my eternal rest without ever crossing paths with a snake. The easiest way to avoid them is to never, ever go into the woods to camp.

You won't find me going into the woods. If you're talking camping, count me out.

My men don’t put the toilet seat down. Will they remember to cover the garbage? Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/Optimism Traveling Mom

Holiday From Hygiene

By concentrating on the things that prevent me from camping, I realize that I’m missing out on some stuff I know I’d really enjoy. Like the whole concept of abandoning personal hygiene for 1, 2, or, dare I say it, 3 days!

I adore outdoor showers – when there’s hot water. So, if I were to camp, I’d forego a cold shower. And once you’ve abandoned that basic human habit, why bother brushing your teeth or hair?

Wallowing like a sweating pig in the dirt with no makeup and ratty clothes sounds heavenly and a wonderful escape from my everyday routine. And it must feel positively baptismal to get home and strip and shower.

As for latrines, they present no difficulty. I earned a merit badge years ago when I learned to use a Moroccan squatty potty. If you’re not familiar with one, it’s a unisex hole in the ground with no tp or soap and water. What I’m saying is that I don’t scare easily, which is why I don’t understand my FOC.

S’Mores and Such

Fire pits are so wildly popular because there’s universal appeal in gathering around flames to toast the end of the day with your nearest and dearest. Franks and beans and chocolate and marshmallows and cold beer are the stuff of my culinary dreams.

In my camping fantasies, my family and friends would circle round and chow down crappy foods. Someone would break out a guitar and we’d sing “American Pie” and tell ghost stories.

That’s the fantasy version of going into the woods. I fear the reality would be that it would rain and we’d be forced to retreat to weeping tents to eat trail mix.

Or, worse, someone would leave a hot dog on the ground and a big, hungry bear would eat it and us.

You won't find me going into the woods. If you're talking camping, count me out.

A cabin by the lake looks peaceful. Maybe I should give it a try? Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/Optimism Traveling Mom

Into the Woods? I’ll Pass.

I completely get it. If I don’t go into the woods, I’ll never enjoy the beauty of gazing at an indigo September sky peppered with stars or wake to a brilliant sunrise over a pristine lake. On the other hand, I’m never going to scratch myself bloody because of bug bites or want to kill my husband with a tent stake because he forgot to pack the beer.

I’m more comfortable not camping than I think I would be camping. But, I’m afraid that I may actually be missing out on something that’s transcendent.

I’m not the type of person who shies away from a challenge.

Maybe, just maybe, I should stick my toe into unchlorinated waters. Perhaps one night. In a cabin. On a cot.

Should I take the plunge? If you’re a fan, why do you love camping? 

Hudson River Valley Camping Destinations with Cabins

New York’s Hudson River Valley is dotted with camping sites that range from rustic to full-blown glamp. Following are several locations that offer cabins for folks, like me, who might consider going gently into the woods to address their FOC.

Newburgh KOA – Guests staying in a deluxe cabin will “…enjoy a camping experience that is more like staying in a vacation home.” This campground offers a full-range of amenities including a pet playground, outdoor movies, and free pancakes!

Sebago Cabin Camp – The New York State Parks system has over 800 cabins available for timid campers and 37 of them are located at this site in Harriman State Park. You don’t have to worry about starting that campfire here; the park stages a Saturday night bonfire for you.

Brook-n-Wood Family Campground – Besides offering a full schedule of daily activities, this campground advertises a heated pool. It’s situated with easy access to a variety of destinations in 4 counties, so there’s plenty to do off-site too.

Into the Woods? I'd Rather Scrub the Toilet than Camp.

Photo: Cathy Bennett Kopf/Optimism Traveling Mom