Sandon River. Friday, 6.30pm
Camping ain’t what it used to be.
Camping used to be an escape from all the stuff that clutters our lives, mental and physical. Now it’s a marketing opportunity.
Who’d have thought that a fold-up camping chair without an attached table with built-in drinks cooler and cup holder devalues your camping experience?
My camping chair doesn’t have an attached table. My beer is on the sand at my feet. Which means I have to bend. Bummer, but exercise is part of camping, right? And sure, I could do with a built-in cooler because the heat from the fire does warm the beer, but I have a solution: Drink faster.
Is nothing sacred?
You can’t ride a bicycle these days without spending hundreds of dollars on special clothes made from bendy billboards. Even walking around the block for exercise now requires lycra tights (to minimise wind resistance around non-airbrushed thighs), an iPhone velcroed to your arm and plugged into your ears, and a thingy on your wrist that counts your calorie burn. Yes, for just under a thousand dollars you can go for a stroll.
And now camping has fallen victim to this material madness.
There used to be a certain aesthetic with camping: a oneness with nature; a simplicity that cleansed our busy souls of the congestion of modern living. A tent, a fire, a billy. Add marshmallows and you were camping.
Not any more.
This camping ground at Sandon River is an island of plastic rubble set in a pristine estuary. It’s like one of those smoking rubbish tips in Manilla I’ve seen on TV where people live among the debris, barely surviving.
Here, poor campers barely survive the frustration of connecting the Decker’s Hot Water Camp Shower to the Suntech 120W Folding Portable Solar Panel only to discover the Bear Grylls Survival Regulator is faulty.
Among the rainbow-coloured jetsam of the new world, people eke out a vacation arranging the junk just so according to brand names.
It’s more like the junk goes on holidays and we are its servants.
All this equipment now attached to camping, like barnacles to a discarded shampoo bottle, takes a physical toll – I pinched my finger folding out the camping-table legs, I scratched the roof of the Subie setting up the solar panel – and a mental toll: My fold-out multipurpose kitchen tool won’t.
Consequently, modern camping causes anxiety, depression, relationship strain, domestic violence, alcohol abuse and civilisation collapse.
Camping equipment is mucking with our minds. Why does my drop-proof, water-resistant torch need a case? Even if it does, why the hell is the case camouflage? I can’t find it.
As I peel the shrinkwrap from a piece of Genuine Camp Firewood, and use my Firewood Placer to place the firewood on the fire, I grab the Multifunction Camp Remote and turn the LED camp lighting to ‘mood’. I reminisce about simpler camping days.
I used to camp with a tent that had poles that didn’t bend. Kids had Ludo, not DVDs. I took an Afghan rug that served as chair, table, dinner plate and bed. I scorned people who had camping chairs.
Now I have a chair, plus an Eco Velour Blow-Up Bed attached to my Bear Grylls Survival 12-Volt Pump, which is attached to my solar panel via my sometimes-working Bear Grylls Survival Regulator. The bed inflates in less than an hour. (It’s called ‘eco’ because natural air is used.)
In olden times, before things were better, we used kerosene lamps for lighting, a fire for cooking, sarongs for clothing, and drugs for fun.
Simple days indeed.