Get lost.

With the pandemic making most travel impossible, many colleagues have turned to camping as a way to escape and to enjoy some rest and relaxation.

Or at least, I assume that they are camping because they cannot do anything else. What else would possess someone to leave their comfortable homes, complete with beds and indoor plumbing, to rough it out in the woods? It can only be a temporary leave of senses.

The road that is becoming decidedly more travelled.
Photo by HoliHo on

Before you decide to pitch your tent out in the wilderness, there are some things you should know. For example, there are beasts and creatures out in Nature. Some beasts are cute and harmless. Others view you as a meal.

Floofy beast in the wild. This beast is acceptable.
Photo by Satyabratasm on
A dangerous floofy beast. Avoid.
Photo by Janko Ferlic on

It is very important to be able to distinguish between the acceptable beasts and the ones that view you as prey. Before you head out into the wild, you should make sure that you review the creatures known to frequent your planned destination, and how to distinguish between the acceptable floofs and the dangerous floofs. For example, you should be able to tell the difference between a bobby-cat and a bobcat. You do not want to get these two mixed up!

People who camp usually sleep in tents. In order to prepare for pitching your own tent, you should make sure that you come prepared to swear in at least two different languages. Swearing in Latin is acceptable even though it is a dead language.

How you imagine pitching the tent
How pitching the tent actually goes
Craig Bennett, “Tent FAIL” CC-By-NC 2.0

“Of course, not everybody likes camping trips. I do not myself enjoy them much, because I’m not outdoorsy, or at any rate, I’m not outdoorsy overnight-without-a-mattress-wise. There’s a limit to the outdoorsiness to which some academics can be expected to submit.”

― G.A. Cohen, Why Not Socialism?

You should be aware that camping typically involves staying out in nature overnight. Do not fall for the trap of accompanying friends on what you believe is a pleasant and limited foray into Nature only to find out that you are expected to sleep in Nature. I assure you that there is no turn-down service in camping. There aren’t even sheets. Just sleeping bags.

Ah, but you will awaken in the beauty and splendour of nature, you think. What a joy it will be to rise in the cool mists of morning, whilst birds sing melodious songs perched on the trees around you.

I must warn you that waking up in Nature, surrounded by birds and their melodies, may not be as entrancing as you imagine. Don’t say that I did not warn you.

Fun Nature Fact: “Chirp” is bird-song for “Wake Up, Mother-Fudger!”

In addition to being expected to overnight in Nature, you will also be expected to …well… er, how to put this delicately? Do your business outdoors.

There are no washrooms in Nature. Nature IS the washroom. If you are lucky, there might be an outhouse. But are outhouses lucky? What happens if there is a snake lurking in the outhouse, just waiting for some poor, unsuspecting human to drop their drawers?

The Common Outhouse Serpent’s colouring allows the serpent to blend into most outhouses effectively whilst it lies in wait.

Of course, just going outdoors is not that simple, either. Watch out for poison ivy and poison oak and bears waiting to catch you in a vulnerable position.

And if someone hands you a shovel, just remember that you chose this adventure. That shovel is the direct result of your exercise of free will, although perhaps not reason.

Finally, as academics, we know the importance of having good collaborators. As with research projects, you must exercise care when choosing your collaborators for camping. Here is a list of collaborators that you should ensure accompany you on your camping adventures:

  • The Survivalist: the person who will save you all because they know how to survive in the wilderness. Bonus points if your Survivalist can wrestle bears to the ground.
  • The Chef: you think that you like the idea of cooking over an open fire. But you don’t. Trust me. Bring along the friend/significant other that can whip up a five course meal in the middle of a forest.
  • The Gear Guy: this is the guy that has all the gear. Unless you want to purchase a lot of gear (and who has research funds for that these days?), you need the Gear Guy, even if he won’t stop talking about all the things that his Swiss Army Knife can do.
  • The Slow Friend: make sure that there is at least one person in your entourage who you can definitely out-run in the event that an encounter with a bear goes sideways and you have to flee for your life.

Remember: camping is (supposed to be) fun. Godspeed, my friends.

2 thoughts on “Get lost.

  1. I don’t want any collaborators because I don’t want to camp ever again. I like the creature comforts and damn I thought I was the only one who worried about snakes biting me while sitting on an outhouse seat.

    Now I must take a strict oath to never use an outhouse again. If a seasoned academic says it is possible, then I’m taking it as ‘gospel.’ I hate the bugs that crawl around and the dampness over everything when it rains.

    This entire discussion is making me cranky at the mere thought of the possibility of camping. So much so that I probably won’t sleep tonight even though I am in my dry cozy bed. 😠🙃 Joanne



  2. This is awesome. I truly want to be the kind of person who likes camping, but really I don’t. Thanks for the reminder and now accompanying facts that this is normal and I am right.


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