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Fourteen years ago, my husband took me on my first real camping trip. We’d sold our house, and had no new house to move in to. We had a 6 month old. He wanted to go west.

Why not?

We packed up a tent and supplies and left for a few weeks. Colorado, Utah, Wyoming…we did it all. Rocky Mountain National Park to Mesa Verde to Yellowstone, and a few stops along the way.

When we returned, I vowed I would never go camping in a tent again.

That’s when we bought our first camper, a 1977 Travelmate Pop-Up. Two full size beds, a sink, a few cabinets and a dinette. It served us well for a few years.

We added two more kids to the mix in the next three years, and upgraded to a larger pop-up. Now we have a hybrid, hard sides with canvas pop outs on the ends.

The point here is that though I would never have deemed myself a camper all those years ago – it’s definitely my preferred mode of travel now.

Here are the top 5 reasons I, a former hotel-only girl, am now a consummate camper:

1. I am usually up with the sun.

It’s not just that we have a camper. I didn’t love the tent, but at this point, I don’t really care anymore. I’m an early riser, and if you are staying in a hotel, there is usually nowhere to go without waking everyone else up when you close those loud doors. In the great outdoors, I can slip out with barely a noise and take a walk. Or sit out in the fresh air and read a book.

2. Stars.

Camping generally occurs in places that have fewer city lights. This makes for terrific stargazing opportunities. If you don’t understand this one, it’s only because you’ve never seen the milky way on a dark night. Trust me.

3. Socialization

It’s almost impossible to camp and not become friends with someone new in the campground. It happens every time. And with social media, you can stay friends. Once you realize that you are the kind of person that camps, you will find all sorts of kindred spirits. I’m a super outgoing person, so it’s completely right up my alley to make new connections.

4. Staying in some of the most gorgeous spots on the planet.

I don’t want to tell you about this, because I tend to tell people about amazing places, and then I go back, and there are too many people. But I’m going to tell you anyway. Primitive campgrounds are the best campgrounds. There are exceptions to this rule. But if it’s a National Park campground, you can bet that it is the prettiest one in the park. The reason for this is that they save the best spots for the people with the most chutzpah. The ones who can go a few days without showering. Can eat a can of beans from the fire pit. Can tie a bandana around their hair and not worry that it’s a little wild.

The absolutely most gorgeous campground we’ve ever encountered is in Jensen, Utah – Green River Campground. It’s right on the banks of the Green river. The cottonwood trees are ubiquitous. The stillness is amazing. There are no hookups. There is no electricity. There are no showers. It’s perfect.

Same with the campgrounds in Bryce Canyon National Park. The smell of the pines. The crisp clean mountain air. It’s unbeatable.

Mesa Verde is pretty great too – and we saw a bear!

5. Campfires

The thing about campfires is that you always end up with s’mores too. And, honestly, how can you say no to that?

There are so many reasons that I prefer camping. These five don’t even begin to cover it all, but please understand that fourteen years ago, I would have never guessed that I’d rather spend the night in my car at a campground than sleep in a comfy bed in a hotel.

 

Note: That’s not the usual way of things…but we flew to Vegas, rented a car, and drove to Utah to see all FIVE National Parks. I refused to make any reservations anywhere because I wanted it to be a go-with-the-flow kind of trip. So, we spent a good portion of the trip paying for a campsite, but sleeping in the Jeep Cherokee. 

Again – that’s not something I would have considered in my mid-twenties. But, now I wouldn’t do it any other way.