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How did you get into camping? Share your story, please!

How did you get into camping? This question came up on an RV camping blog recently. Responses to the question varied. Camping was a necessity for a few folks who otherwise had no home. Several people began camping as children—taken along with parents or grandparents who introduced them to the great outdoors. Still other people began camping as an economic way to travel to their children’s sporting events. The stories go on and on, as you might expect. It seems everyone has something to say about how they got into camping.

How we got into camping/RVing

The conversation thread helped me remember how my husband and I first began camping. When we were first married, we attempted to be tent campers. We went out two or three times but didn’t find much enjoyment in the experience. Fast forward about 40 years. Three children raised and out of the house. Both my husband and I were looking forward to retirement but had no specific plans on what retirement might look like for us. Get into camping? It wasn’t even on our radar!

Getting into camping joke

All through the years while raising our children, we teased them about getting an RV. We laughed about how during retirement we’d join Laborers for Christ (a church group made up of retired folks who worked to construct churches, schools, camp buildings, etc.). “We’ll just travel off into the sunset,” we’d tease. We’d laugh and promise to call them at Christmas and Easter. It was a joke. Well, we meant it as a joke…

The ad that changed everything

Then it happened. I saw an ad in the Laborers for Christ newsletter. In it, a private owner posted his Ford F-350 dually diesel truck and 35-foot Mobile Suites (now DRV Mobile Suites) fifth-wheel. He wanted to “give it away.” We immediately called the phone number on the posting.

Turns out, the truck and RV owner originally wanted to donate his complete rig to the Laborers for Christ organization. The organization, however, didn’t want the insurance, storage, and upkeep hassle, so his second choice was to sell it to a Laborer. It looked like our “retirement plan” just might come true!

Although the diesel truck only had 56,000 miles on it, we purchased it and the RV for a total of $10,000. Yes, $10K total. My husband told the owner, “You know you can sell it for much more.” The guy agreed, but said since we were planning to use it as Laborers, he wanted us to have it.

The joke’s on us!

Within a week, we were driving home a new (to us) truck and RV. After a two-day “shakedown” trip, we were off to Lexington, KY. We’d spend the next eight months helping to build a church and preschool. Our kids suspected we’d lost our minds. They thought all along our “get-into-camping retirement plan” was only a joke! Well, originally it was. But as it turns out, the joke was on us!

Since that time, my husband and I have participated in several additional builds: Some church additions; some camp cabin remodels; and some schools, too. We’ve met the most wonderful people—both on the road and on the job sites. And that’s how we got into camping in our RV.

How did you get into camping?

Now it’s your turn. When did you first get into camping? Let’s keep the conversation going. Tell your story in the comments below, please. I’m excited to read them.

##RVT1045

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Brenda Bilton
6 months ago

My parents owned a cottage when I was growing up and we spent a lot of time there year-round. When us kids grew up and started having families of our own and were busy, it became more of a challenge to keep up the cottage. We decided to camp together every summer and as time progressed, we graduated from tents to pop-ups to travel trailers and now we have a fifth wheel. For as much as I loved the cottage and miss it, we love the freedom of having our house on wheels and experiencing different locations.

Donn
6 months ago

I was a young man of 18 yrs with two terrible bad habits. I played tennis and played in a band. With either, I was often required to travel. I bought a Nash Rambler station wagon at age 17 yrs. It was a natural. I often played in a tourney or a weekend gig while sleeping in the Rambler. It just became a habit and a convenience. Eventually, I aged into the notion of camping and being outdoors.
While I eventually did sell the Rambler, tennis and camping were to become a lifelong habit. I gave up tennis about age 55 or so. I’m still an avid boondocker style camper. Been to Quartzsite and so many Midwest campgrounds I can’t remember them all. Still love to head out for Bluegrass festivals if only with a tent.

Paul
6 months ago

I hated camping as a boy scout and at summer camp in the Adirondacks. i thought sleeping in the open or in a tent was a punishment. Fast Forward 20 years some friends invited us to join them camping in Western Massachusetts to spend 4th of July at Tanglewood Music Center. WE bought a two person tent and stuffed it and two sleeping bags into the Corvette (!!!) and off we went. Having the tent and other minimal camping gear we began to explore the eastern US with a campground guide and B&B Book (for bad weather). Someplace in there we borrowed a friends 26 foot Unger Crown Commander – on a Dodge Chassis. I have never seen another one of those. We took that coach all the way around the Great Lakes and thought that was the best way in the world to travel. It took us almost 24 years to convert that experience into another rental – this time a C in Vancouver BC after a week spent camping out of a kayak on the Johnson Straits. We got serious bought our first motorhome.

Paul
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

After 10 years of part time to most time, we sold the house and hit the road FT in our brand new DP.

KellyR
6 months ago

I guess because of my folks, I didn’t know there was any other way to take a vacation – tent or travel trailer. I had never stayed in a motel until our wedding night. Army barracks yes – Motel no.

MrDisaster
6 months ago

I’ve camped for as long as I can remember. We started with a fancy canvas umbrella tent. My Dad got it from Rainier Tent and Awning. Ahh the smell of waterproofing and canvas. We camped all over the PNW. Got paid to camp for a few years thanks to Uncle Sam. Got married and we hiked and camped all over. Got a van and continued. Told our daughter that when she went to college we were going to sell the house and hit the road. Well life interceded and we took her to college but didn’t sell the house for several years. we did sell in 2018 and have fulltimed since then.

Gail
6 months ago
Reply to  MrDisaster

I’d forgotten about that distinctive smell (waterproof canvas)! Thanks for the reminder. Happy travels!

Donn
6 months ago
Reply to  Gail

Matter of fact, recently gave my 15’x15′ all-canvas well maintained serious camping tent to my great grandson with high hopes he will continue to use it and use it well. Yes, the reminiscent aroma of water proofing in a canvas tent…a sort of forgotten memory. Thanks for the reminder. I will mention that to him.

Bob Weinfurt
6 months ago

My parents were part owners of a hunting cabin on 35+ acres in upstate NY. Nobody in my family hunted and since it wasn’t used by anybody else during the summer. we took the occasional family weekend trip there. No phone, TV, or running water unless the stream was flowing down the mountain. If it got chilly, you started a small fire in the woodstove. I loved that place when I was a kid and found it very relaxing to be there in my later years. Skipping ahead to recent years, boondocking in my old motorhome brings that peaceful feeling back. Just having the basics is all I need to be happy.

Lucky in Kc
6 months ago

I tent camped with my dad’s tent in the backyard while growing up. Tent camped again in my 30’s. Ground got harder, my back got softer and I bought a used pop-up while on a vacation in Michigan and hauled it home, shocked my family. Camped in it for 2 years. Sold it for more than I paid for it. Bought a used TrailManor and absolutely love it and am enjoying the camping life. Also, remember we were all newbies at one time. Strike up a conversation with newbies, gently let them know the code of ethics we camping people live by and they have gained some knowledge. Knowledge is power. I’ve asked people to turn off there lights at night and most people understand when you explain it to them nicely.

Lolo N
6 months ago

There’s not much happening in Wisconsin in early March, so when I heard the ad for the RV show on the radio, I thought Why not? It would give us something to do on a cold, windy day. I had not grown up as a camper, and my husband had done some pop-up camping with his family. Our young boys thought the idea of going to an RV show was about the worst they had ever heard, but within 15 minutes of arriving, they absolutely insisted that we buy one! Fast forward a year or two, and the universe organized itself such that we were able to take our new trailer out west for seven weeks into 14 national parks deserted thanks to covid. Best. Experience. Ever. Fast forward even more, and our boys are too busy and too big to cram all of us into that camper again, but we’re hoping to take it up again one day.

Cal
6 months ago

My folks were married in 1948. Dad was a GI Bill student at Kansas State. They a lot of spare time but little money so dad converted the seats in a 1940 something car to lay down into a bed. The trunk was the kitchen. I had been from Massachusetts to California by the time I was 18 months old. They upgraded to station wagons where the front seat was my bed and the tailgate was the kitchen. When I outgrew the front seat they bought a 16’ travel trailer. From there it was on to Scouting and backpacking. Now being old with a bad back it’s back to an RV.

wanderer
6 months ago

What a kick to read all these different stories!

Joe
6 months ago

For years we had a large sailboat, sold it when the kids got too busy, wife had knees replaced so rolling around on the water and trying to walk in it was hazardous to her. We still wanted to travel around so we bought a small motorhome and then moved up to a 40 foot pusher. All the same concepts, had a dingy, black tank but no gray, diesel engine to maintain (think my max fuel use was 30 gallons for the year) and no washer and dryer. However it was harder to take a walk while swinging on the hook unless you can walk on water! A couple of things Are different. Best sleep while gently rocking, no campfire smoke drifting around causing me to cough, if the neighbors were loud just pull anchor and move, no one ever wanted to know the age of the boat while visiting a different marina.

Pat
6 months ago

Long time ago, working at the copy room at Western Electric in Cicero, IL. I met a camper, and told me all about camping, and the fun he and his family had around the campfires. So he sold me his Ted Williams tent, homemade kitchen, and roof top carrier. Off we went, and now have diesel pusher. I still remember that tent.

Candy Medina
6 months ago

I was raised a city boy in Los Angeles, never went camping. Got my introduction about camping when I joined the Army. Slept in a 2 man pup tent with another GI. Being outdoors in the wild was nice. Kept right on camping after 10 years in the Army. Now I’m 72 and just back from two camping in Quartzsite, Az. Beats four walls anyway!

Rod B
6 months ago

30 years ago I was working highway construction in AZ,NM,NV and UT working daylight to dark 6 days a week. Sometimes it was 30 miles to a motel so I bought a travel trailer to park on the jobsite. I enjoyed that more than a motel. So when I retired we bought a 5th wheel then a motorhome and have been enjoying traveling ever since.

Robert Lea
6 months ago

Backyard, boy scouts, hanging out at the lake. Tent camping with young family, then 4WD outings.
Later, back packing, then a big cabin tent, finally using a collapsible bedframe and air mattress so we didn’t have to get down to & up from ground level!
Fast forward to middle age, we both saw the handwriting on the wall: it was time to do something different, so we quit our jobs (they were soon to be ended anyway) bought a truck and travel trailer and hit the road for one year and 45000 miles; that first experience that can never be duplicated, no matter how many more RVs, time and mileage may accrue.
Now, well into retirement, 5 years on the road as full timers, sometimes and part timers, 85,000 truck miles and 45000 trailer miles, RVng is a lot different than when we began, not as carefree, more expensive and requires more effort, but still worth it.
Thanks for the miles and memories.

robert
6 months ago

As a teen ager growing up on a small farm there was always chores, but there were times I could get away for a night. So I take my horse and ride up on the mountain near home and camp out with the saddle for a pillow. That was over 60 years ago but what fun. Memories like that are hard for young people of today to experience.

Dennis G
6 months ago

Started camping with my parents, (cab-over camper) when I was in infant. We camped that way until parents divorced, when I was 10. Did not get back to camping (class-c) until my mom remarried in my teens. Met my, wife to be, when I was 16. Camped with her family once, in a pop-up tent trailer. In college, my parents purchased a brand new 30’ 1996 Flair class-a, and I lost track of my wife-to-be. She camped and hiked with friends through to 90’s. Reconnected and married my wife 12 years ago, and became a dad. My step dad-dad passed away, 6 years ago, and we purchased the 96 Flair and kept her in the family. Since then we have hit 7 national, travelled 16k miles and used the RV for countless travel baseball tournaments.

Jan Fields
6 months ago

Almost 70 now, and my family has always camped. Started out (with my parents) in canvas tents, Coleman gas stoves, always a dog along. My husband and I started out the same (with more modern tents), took a portable crib for the babies in the tents. Did tent camping all the time the kids were growing up. Then graduated to sleeping in our brand new GMC truck with a memory foam mattress. Luxury! Finally in 2018 bought our first travel trailer; a 18’ Lance. Luxury, luxury. A perfect couples trailer.

John Koenig
6 months ago

I did some backpack tent camping in my teens and enjoyed it. Years later, after hearing about the “Burning Man event in NV, I decided I wanted to see what it was all about and, that a small RV would be useful. After LOTS of research, I ordered a new, 2010 Casita 17′ Spirit Deluxe Travel Trailer which I could tow with the 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan I then owned. The Casita was a GREAT choice! I had a great time at the 2010 Burning Man event and returned in 2011 & 2012. In 2014, I “graduated” to a Super-C diesel puller which I now Full Time in.

scott velie
6 months ago

50 years ago when I was a child my grandparents sold their fruit farm in the Hudson valley and bought an Avion travel trailer. In the winter they worked in Everglades national park and the summer they worked in Yellowstone national park. They were work campers before there were work campers.
During school vacations I would get to go stay with them and that was my intro to camping.
Since then I have become an RV owner and a master RV tech.