Some people pitch a fit when they have to pitch a tent
Peggy DuFresne does not enjoy eating with a spork. Or sleeping in a tent. Or bugs. Or smelly feet.
“I like the outdoors and being outside and all that, but I am a very light sleeper, and I hear everything at night. I hear everyone snoring. I can’t get comfortable in the sleeping bag. I’m always the one who gets wet,” says DuFresne, 55 .
This would be no big deal — except her husband is Jim DuFresne, a camping and backpacking expert. In 2005, he authored a definitive guide to Michigan’s best campgrounds. He writes Lonely Planet backpacking guides from remote Alaska and wild New Zealand.
“Camping incompatible pretty much describes my wife and me,” says Jim DuFresne, 56. “To be honest with you, I really don’t mind. We’ve been married more than 30 years, and the last thing I want on a camping trip is somebody whining about a bug in their oatmeal or a little sand in their sleeping bag.”
Can a tent divided against itself stand? Can camping incompatible couples survive?
Before we explore this tender topic, let’s get a little perspective on this. A whole lot of Americans camp — about 15 percent of the U.S. population. But while 70 percent of campers go with friends, only 58 percent go with just their spouse. That likely means there are a lot of camping incompatible couples out there.
nCouples’ camping incompatibility often lies dormant until children arrive and someoe has to volunteer to go camping with the Brownies or Cub Scouts.
“That’s when I found out that if it wasn’t a cabin or the Hilton, this was not for him,” says Maureen Bennett, 46. “When we go camping, my husband always says, ‘When does the sun come up so I can pretend to stop sleeping?’”
Rob Bennett, 50, chuckles and says it’s true.
“I guess if I’m going on a vacation, I’d rather go someplace where I don’t have to lie on the ground,” he says. “ I just keep thinking, at home I have a very comfortable bed, but no, I’m lying on this giant rock.”
But camping fans say there are plenty of benefits that outweigh the gripes. Camping is cheap, they say. It’s good for family bonding. It gets you back to basics. You see stars — remember those? It reconnects you with human history. It teaches you reverence for the land.
“I think you just get in touch with who you are,” says Maureen Bennett. “Two years ago, I talked my husband into doing a two-week family camping trip to Yellowstone and out West. It was $20 a night. We couldn’t have afforded it otherwise. And without Wi-Fi and cellphones, kids talk so much more around the campfire than they do in a hotel.”
One big difference between those who love or hate camping is whether they were exposed to it as a child. Half of campers polled in a 2011 national survey for the Outdoor Foundation in Boulder, Colo., say they first went camping when they were age 7 or younger. Only 9 percent of current campers started the hobby after age 18.
Nearly half of campers say they were introduced to camping by their fathers, with scouts and friends also influential (only 7 percent of campers say they were introduced to camping by their mothers.)
Children can be a camping-loving parent’s best ally.
Both DuFresne children, now adults, share their dad’s passion to the outdoors.
“Last summer, my son, now 26, flew to Alaska to join me at the end of my stay so we could hike the famous Chilkoot Trail,” Jim DuFresne says. “My daughter once flew down to New Zealand to join me on a couple of walks.”
All three of the Bennett children love camping because they did it a lot with their mom growing up.
Rob Bennett, too, is fine with that. His wife and teenage daughter often take their tents and go off for the weekend, leaving him to hold down the fort.
“While they’re doing that I’m sitting home watching the Tigers play,” he says. “It’s a perfect weekend for everyone.”
He could be right. After all, poet Khalil Gibran’s advice to couples was to “let there be spaces in your togetherness.”
He probably was talking about camping.
Gannett News Service