My husband is a former Eagle Scout.

He could successfully camp in a desert with nothing but a bandana, a Swiss army knife, and a self-satisfied expression. I managed to avoid camping when our four older kids were little, possibly because two of them had conflicting disabilities (one wasn’t very mobile; the other was non-containable), or because there were four of them and we were outnumbered.

Or because back then he just felt sorry for me.

Whatever the reason, all our vacations were in luxury oceanfront condos with gourmet kitchens and gorgeous views.

Then we had a baby.

He’s ten years younger than our previous youngest child, so by the time the little shrimp got to first grade, camping was back on the menu.

This, by the way, is total bullshit.

We signed up for a group that coordinates family campouts once a month. On the one hand, this is not primitive camping – these are drive-up or walk-in campsites in state parks, some with water, and occasionally with (hell yessssss) electricity.

On the other hand, camping. Outside. With bugs.

I am now going on my third year of camping four or five times a year, and I have come to (sort of) enjoy it, due in no small part to accepting my fate and rewarding myself lavishly afterwards. However, even so, the Great Outdoors needs a little something to make it palatable. Here’s what gets me through:

  1. The Tent Mahal – This is a critical piece of equipment. Trust. We have a big ass tent that a 6 foot tall man can walk into standing up, and it has two “rooms”- one for the kids, and one for us. It is, amazingly, a pop up tent, so I was able to assemble it with only the help of my 16-year old daughter, even though she was texting most of that time. Whatever gets you through, sister, whatever gets you through.
  2. Battery operated ceiling fan – Hell yes to the idea person behind this little gem. Buh-bye boob sweat – hello, cool breezes.
  3. Big Ass Bed – Fuck yes, I do have an air mattress that is 20 inches high. It’s Queen-sized and cushy and I absolutely do set it up in my “room” and then make it up with real sheets, and pillows with real pillowcases, and a flannel comforter. (See? Flannel! That’s camping-like). I can sit on the bed to put on my shoes. It’s the right height for my wee little camping night stand, on which I can set a lantern, and, more importantly, a beer.
  4. Camp Stove – Screw that campfire. It’s a pain in the ass. Propane all the way, baby.
  5. Camping Table – When it’s not in use holding up the camp stove, the leg height can be adjusted so that it converts into (voila!) a coffee table! (Which makes it an excellent place to set your beer coffee.) 
  6. Instant Coffee – Whatever’s fastest. You are only going to get about 45 seconds sleep. Just mix it up, then settle back in your camping chair and glare at those loud-ass birds. Stupid Nature.
  7. Canopy chair– I don’t have one yet, but this is next on my list in the constant campaign to make outside less sucky. I need shade, people! Otherwise, the glare makes it too hard to see the screen on my iPad! Kidding. (Unless you aren’t judging me, in which case not kidding, and let’s be best friends.)
  8. Pinterest Mom – There’s at least one of these overachievers at every campsite. Scope her out. Stalk her like the last doe in the forest. She will have extra glowsticks, when it didn’t even occur to you to buy them. She will pop popcorn in a camping contraption for your kids. She will supervise the s’mores and might even make you one, a good one, just browned but not blackened. In return for all her awesome, I suggest you give her the applause she deserves, and share your wine.
  9. Booze – Key ingredient. A bottle of Chardonnay that has been iced down in the cooler and cute guys playing guitar around the campfire is a recipe for camping happiness. I will tell you, should this combo inspire passion, the fabric tent partitions are not soundproof, and you are too damn old to do it in the backseat of the minivan, Tonie.

If it all gets to be too much, I know from experience that there is a rural town with a drugstore within 20 miles of most state parks. Your kid looks rashy. Maybe he needs a Benadryl. You are a saint to volunteer to go get it and miss all the “fun.”

Resist the urge to buy a foot spa, towel turban, or wall mounted singing fish. Do buy the best chocolate they have. (You need provisions for the drive back.)

And for god’s sake, don’t forget the Benadryl.   

Tonie Knight is a Cuban-American-Texan, makes an excellent café Cubano, and wears lots of red lipstick. She has five awesome children ranging from 9 to 22 years old, and one perfect husband. An Austin Listen to Your Mother 2015 cast member, longtime competitor and participant in the Austin Poetry Slam, and educational media voice talent, she can be found online at


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  1. Funny! I only just learned of these newfangled, lightweight little contraptions for camping/hiking/road trips that allow women to pee standing up. I swear I’ll be buying one for the next time I get dragged out on a 10-hour hike (haven’t been forced to camp yet).

    • I bought one! Then I realized I never want to camp somewhere without a bathroom. Ok. Truth is I never want to camp.

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