I’d like to go back in time to last summer and smack myself upside the head for camping while pregnant, with a toddler, without a camper. What was I thinking? Such an unnecessarily uncomfortable experience, although it was fun and rewarding at the time.
Isaac and I have been looking at campers since March, and going by the towing capacity of our Toyota Sienna (minivans rule!) we narrowed down our wish list to a pop up camper with an 8-10 foot box. Local sale listings came and went (sparingly), usually selling before we even had a chance to respond. Some had roof rot, and nearly all campers in great condition were far out of our price range. Our sales page diligence paid off when we spotted this 1990 Coleman Columbia on Craigslist. It was within our budget, and appeared to be in fair condition. We contacted the seller just hours after the listing posted, and secured the second appointment to view it. I was sure we were going to miss out since these campers tend to sell the same day when they’re in good shape and priced fairly. Fortunately, the first buyer passed and having sold our old utility trailer the same day, we went to check out the camper with cash in hand. The camper was in amazing condition so we bought the pop up and towed it home the same day. After the kids went down for bed, we popped open the camper on the driveway and clinked beer bottles at the dinette, excited about our upcoming trips.
It was a stroke of genius to invest in a pop-up camper, and an incredibly lucky break to snatch one for sale in the Fairbanks North Star Borough where there typically two or fewer for sale at any given time. This year we have two littles we want to share the outdoors with. Camping with two tiny kids and two tall adults in a tent, on the ground, surrounded by mosquitos, under the Alaska midnight sun was not going to work for us. Sorry tent camping and backpacking purists, we’re a young family with many needs. We are the first to admit — we are sell outs.
Our camper has a two stove burner, two full size beds, and a sweet dinette that folds down into a twin sized bed. Although our coleman has a sink, we did not camp with full water and electric hook ups, and we didn’t rely on battery power. This was our maiden voyage and we needed it to be as primitive as possible for our own adjustment from tent camping to glamping.
Having a place to hang out, away from the mosquitos, while still catching a summer cross breeze was glorious. Our kids were able to bounce around like normal, the dog had a spot on the floor to nap, and I had kitchen space to whip up some hot chow. Vegan chow, no less.
And blackout curtains! Wonderful, gracious, functional blackout curtains! We don’t even have those up at home yet.
Our site was in the Chena Lakes Recreation area just outside of North Pole, close enough to home for us to bail in the event of some crisis, and close enough to town for us to run and buy more diapers, or whatevers that we may have forgotten.
I’m not one to toot my own horn, but TOOT! I did an excellent job packing up for the camping trip, bringing along all the necessities, and even some creature comforts.
Isaac is already brainstorming on how to rig some golf batteries to a solar panel to create super efficient energy for our camper. I need a water holding tank so I can stop going outside to wash dishes. And the kids need a few more blankets to keep cozy when the nights plunge into the high 30s like they did this weekend. We were warm enough, but not as comfortable as we could have been. Electric blankets might be in our future, if Isaac can somehow harness the power of the sun. I still can’t believe electric blankets are even an option for camping. Is it still camping? I’m having some doubts on the legitimacy of glamping, but I just remembered I don’t care.
We spent our days exploring the Chena Lakes area. Towering birch forests enveloped us on our nature walks, and the views from a 40 foot retaining wall were humbling. Snow capped hills rolled on to infinity to the North, and to the south, the Alaska range jutted into the sky, faded in appearance by the miles of atmosphere in between.
Our wildlife sightings were limited, fortunately. While we do carry bear mace on our outings, I have no idea how to use it, so we would likely be in a world of trouble if we came upon a sow and her cubs. On our first night out, there was scratching under my bed, and a low rustle in the brush nearby. A raccoon? A fox? We speculated on what it could have been, but never landed on any conclusions about our mystery visitor.
Camping is great. It’s a free pass to not clean, and to be disorganized. But despite my best efforts, I still tried to reign in the chaos, stuffing gear into our storage boxes, delegating chores to Isaac and even snapping at the dog to eat up food bits that fell to the ground. There were still diapers to be changed, mess kits to be cleaned, and trash to be taken out. Par for the course.
I do believe our Coleman Pop Up Camper will see much use this summer. Alaska’s brutal winter is in the rear view mirror, and the midnight sun is hovering on the horizon (all night long).