Camping Out Mermaid Style
Oh this could be a good one! I love to camp. LOVE it. It's one of the best aspects of traveling to craft shows in my opinion. I am talking here about camper-less camping, aka 'car camping' or 'dry camping'. Took me a few years to make it as comfy as possible, adding and changing things bit by bit. Now that I have it nailed, I can go anywhere. In fact, it was preparing for my big Mermaid Tour 2010 that really got my digs styled out, and that 5000 miles provided some amazing camping opportunities for sure. Here are some of the main aspects of camping and how I do them.
I mention a bit about where and how to camp in my Taking Your Show on the Road post. Here I will get more into detail. So I guess the act of camping basically involves 3 areas... Sleeping, Eating, and Bathing.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting good sleep while doing shows. Make your bed as cozy as possible. My basic sleep gear consists of a good foam pad, sleeping bag, a real pillow and an extra blanket.
The foam pad is hugely important. I started with an air mattress (obviously it takes up less room) but by morning I was always suffering on a cold hard surface. They just don't stay full and they're kind of a pain to fill up. My first sleep pad was made of the thick green foam you get at Joanns, which I covered in fabric. Super cush, but a little narrow and difficult to fold or roll up. Now I use the ones you can get at Costco that fold into thirds. They're still comfy, but wider to lay on and easier to stack in the van.
Having a warm enough bag is big too, those chilly spring/fall mornings can kill a good night's sleep. It should be warm enough for the coldest possible temps you will see. Mine is rated for 30 degrees. I like my thick cotton bag over those puffy backpacker ones. It's just more cushy comfy cozy to me, and makes an extra pad if the weather is hot.
Don't skimp on the pillow. I keep a quality camping-only pillow and my extra blanket in a big drawstring bag. The blanket is handy for cold or warm weather. For those extra crisp mornings, I also keep a soft warm beenie in there. Makes a huge difference.
Oh and while you're at it, invest in earplugs. Buy a bunch and stash them everywhere. Seriously, they can be a real sleep saver.
Whenever I vend at a craft show, I prefer to bring my own food. It's just healthier and easier. When I travel, my food plan doesn't change much, unless I'll be camping in a place where I can cook. I think the best part of paying for a real campsite is the fire! Otherwise, any grocery deli section has lots of options, hot and cold. I try to take advantage of all the great summer farm stands out there. I will eat a meal in a restaurant occasionally if visiting a friend, or if I had a really good day of sales. But mostly I'm good with the grocery store.
I have a Kitchen Box of dry goods and cook gear that I keep between my front seats all the time. I've become used to having it as a driving table, but also you never know when you will need to make your own coffee. Seriously. It's important. I can't tell you how much my show and travel experience improved once I realized how easy it is to keep coffee making stuff with me at all times.
In my Kitchen Box I have:
One burner stove & fuel - french press - coffee grounds
Matches - stove lighter - fire starter bricks - sm citronella candles
Set of 3 nesting camp pots/pans - long bbq fork
Instant oatmeal - tea bags - extra utensils
Ceramic and plastic cups - can/bottle opener
Aluminum foil - sm & lg zip bags
Paper towels - toilet paper
I also use 3 Coolers:
Small Cooler with Wheels - Has lots of pockets for utensils and stuff, handy roller/handle, light weight... but not very cold. I take this one to the booth with me, with just enough food for the day. If it's hot out, I add a ziploc full of ice or a frozen water bottle. For general travel I use it for dry goods.
Small Cooler no Wheels - Not as easy to carry, but keeps things cold. I use this one for perishables and usually leave it in the van. It can hold a block of ice if needed.
Ice-Only Cooler - Part of my hot show arsenal (I am a wimp in hot weather!). A short round cooler with a spout, for drinking-ice only. I also have a big insulated water bottle; I can ice the water in the morning and it stays cold all day.
BATH & BODY
Okay, now we get to the nitty gritty of dry camping. Bathing and toileting are big issues when on the road. Your craft show camping situation can be so varied, you have to be prepared for everything. The toughest camping situation is when you have to hide out and be invisible in the middle of a busy city. The easiest being a paid campground spot with showers and toilets. And lots of situations in between.
I am ready for anything with these items:
Washing Water - I keep a 2.5 gal water bottle (with spout) in the van all the time, specifically for washing. I always carry soap, wash cloth, and towel. So anywhere I am, I can at least wash my face and freshen up. I've gotten very skilled at the sponge bath.
Solar Shower - Only for a real campsite, it's a little tricky to hang up but freaking awesome for long trips. I will use it when camping between shows, so I can set up my booth canopy and hang the shower high enough to work well.
Popup Shower Tent - A sweet little closet size tent that just pops up on it's own, fits my shower and/or potty inside.
Personal Porta Potty - Okay, now we're getting serious... a little gross maybe, but by far the most valuable item in my camping supplies. Especially when camping in the city, where public bathrooms may be scarce. Or for camping in more primitive campgrounds, which I prefer. I use the Luggable Loo, simply a plastic toilet seat that snaps onto a 5 gal bucket. I line it with thick black leaf bags and add kitty litter. That's it! Add more litter after each use, and empty it every day. I wouldn't leave home without it.
My, I do go on. I guess I am just excited to share my little bit of knowledge of how to make your selling travels more enjoyable. I personally love that my work can be half vacation... and 100% fun.