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J’adore/j’abhor: camping

Does the sight of a sleeping bag pique your sense of adventure, or break you out in a cold sweat? Two Muddy behemoths duke it out over camping - let's hope it doesn't get too tents (sorry).


J’ADORE:

You feel euphoric just from making a half-drinkable cup of coffee,” says Muddy writer Lucy Foster

“Nothing is worth it if you don’t have to try.” So said the late, great Prince. And while he’s not particularly known for his motivational wisdom, when it comes to camping, this is a lyric I can get behind.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am completely aware of the discomfort that comes with an extended camp (and by extended, I mean more than 24 hours). There are the punishing fluctuations of the thermometer mercury – “Did we bring a fourth duvet? Because I can’t feel my legs” vs “Open. The door. Must. Breathe air. That isn’t sub-Saharan. In. Temperature”.

I am also familiar with the veneer of grime that can only be removed with a scorching hot shower/bath combination and pre-soak 90 degree wash on the return to civilisation. 

But it is that, in my mind, which makes camping such a glorious event. You are suddenly reduced to meeting the most basic of your needs. Screw being clean; you’re going to be hypothermic if you don’t construct a shelter in the next 14 minutes. You feel euphoric just from making a half-drinkable cup of coffee. That’s right, pat yourself on the back, pal. Every superfluous trapping of 21st-century living is diminished because above all else you need to sleep, drink and eat. This is bottom-level Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And, man, doesn’t it make you feel ALIVE?

And nothing feels as good as snuggling, toasty warm, into your sleeping bag as the weather does its worst outside. (Arguably, nothing feels as bad as having your tent collapse in a rainstorm after you’ve accidentally kicked out the plug in your airbed – and I’ve been there too.) And, sure, you have to be relatively sensible about it. I once went camping with a boy who turned up with only a tent and a pack of bread rolls for a pillow. Suffice to say, he didn’t sleep much – turns out August nights in Jersey are not as warm as you’d think. Nor do Warburton’s floured baps cushion your head. 

But it’s these trials – the camping disasters and triumphs – that make it so much fun. And even if you’re rain-soaked and sleep deprived, at least you’ve got a cracking story for everyone in the morning. And that boiling cup of instant coffee with UHT milk? Tastes amazing now, doesn’t it? 

J’ABHOR:

It’s a hideous confrontation with my own disorganisation, says Muddy editor-in-chief Hero Brown

I want to be clear: I’m not a snob. I don’t need 5-star comfort at every turn. I don’t balk if there isn’t a sumptuously soft towelling robe and matching slippers laid on my bed each night. And yes, I’ve done festivals and yes, I’ve enjoyed myself.

But there are hard facts that I can’t ignore when it comes to camping. Firstly, I don’t want to queue to brush my teeth. Secondly, I have serious concerns with the ‘mobile toilet situation’ (but to be honest, if you don’t have serious concerns with that, we need to have words).

And let’s not beat around the bush – it’s bloody uncomfortable sleeping in a feather-filled cocoon on the floor, air bed or not. There’s a reason human beings created sprung mattresses and duvets and it’s called evolution.

But I could get past the filth, and the patchy sleep and breathing through my mouth within five metres of the portaloos. What I really struggle to circumvent is the mess. I am, by nature, a little ramshackle. My house is awash with my belongings; I scatter surfaces with my things in the manner of a dozy toddler. (My husband is in the process of surreptitiously removing me and my laptop to the garden shed – he’s talking about having it plumbed for Christ’s sake — so this should give you some indication of how desperate he is to find a containment system.)

So put me in a 12x9ft tent and it just becomes a hideous confrontation with my own disorganisation. Wet wipes, phone chargers, clean clothes – they remove themselves to the farthest ends of the ground sheet or somehow end up under mattresses or burrow into sleeping bags. The inside of the tent submerges under a thick layer of my personal detritus and surely, inexorably, I have to come face to face with my own tidiness failings. And I don’t like it.

Camping is for the organised. For people who always carry a mini-torch on their keyring and vacuum-pack their winter duvets. For those who know what to keep in tents’ strange built-in pockets and can call on their catalogue of knots to attach a battery-powered light to the awning. And they’re welcome to it. I’ll be sat in the nearby B&B surrounded by all my sundries on a comfy bed watching TV. And yes, I will be wearing a towelling robe. 

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