Unhappy Camper

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On cold days like today, I think back to those times in Boy Scouts when I almost froze to death. Each year, I went on a mandatory two-night winter campout to experience all that nature had to offer, which was basically just boredom and frostbite. I hated camping, but that’s not saying much. I can count on one hand the things I actually like: Four of them are types of beer, and one is a pumice stone. The bottoms of my feet are immaculate. I was a terrible fit for Boy Scouts, but I joined anyway to pad my résumé. For some reason, I thought my future employer would actually care how many nights I stared at a campfire and wished I was dead. The official handbook says the scout motto is “be prepared,” but in practice it’s “do the bare minimum to become an Eagle Scout and then quit.” I earned my merit badges, but all I learned in the process was that camping is a pointless waste of time best left to hobos. Here’s why I’m never going outside again.

It’s impossible to get in touch with the wilderness by camping because nature by definition is the absence of people. When someone barges into the woods and starts a campfire, they are as much a part of the wild as a subdivision or a skyscraper. The only way to become one with nature is to be eaten by a predator, but that’s not likely thanks to the foresight of our ancestors. Cavemen systematically wiped out saber-toothed tigers and bears the size of houses in mankind’s first preemptive strike. We owe our survival as a species to the fact that nobody in the Stone Age was an environmentalist. What’s left of the wilderness today are the small, tame parts early man didn’t have time to kill off. Trying to get in touch with nature by going to a modern campground is like attempting to experience real Mexican cuisine by eating at Taco Bell.

There are better ways to enjoy the wild than by rushing out into the middle of it. Nature looks better on my 50-inch plasma TV than it ever could if I saw it in person with my obsolete human eyes. Thanks to the 1080p display in my living room, I can experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains or the lushness of the rainforest without giving up easy access to a fridge and toilet paper. Cameramen around the world film thousands of hours of footage and then edit it down to the only nine minutes of exciting animal activity that took place that year. I shudder to think of how many weeks some guy had to lie motionless on the savannah before he finally spotted two lions humping. Nothing I see by visiting my local nature preserve could ever be that action-packed or erotic. The apex predator in my state is the unremarkable whitetail deer. I should know; one of them bit off my finger.

It turns out deer will eat anything if you coat it in peanut butter.

When most people say they love nature, what they really mean is they hate their families. Any guy I’ve ever met who hunts really just wants an excuse to get away from his wife and drink lots of beer. If he gets to kill something in the process, that’s simply a bonus. I sympathize with all of those goals, but I can enjoy the same isolation by drinking alone in my bathroom. It’s amazing how much time it saves when I start out on the toilet. I might not be able to shoot stuff from my throne, but I can get up to wash my hands whenever I want. Alcohol poisoning might kill me, but bacteria certainly won’t.

I don’t buy the explanation that camping is worth it for the camaraderie, either. There’s no reason to flee a city full of people only to cram into a small tent with four other dudes. At least in urban environments, social conventions demand a nominal attempt at hygiene. Camping, on the other hand, puts each man in the tent within smelling distance of other guys who won’t bathe or brush their teeth for days. I just don’t get the appeal. Maybe it’s a fetish thing.

If the only purpose of this claustrophobic stench den is to get drunk and bond, there’s a better way. It’s called a bar, and it lets patrons drink beer in a comfortable setting without the need to pee where there might be poison ivy. That’s a mistake men only make once, unless they’re looking for the ultimate excuse to scratch themselves down there all day. For a nominal fee, bar customers can even order food without the hassle or rubbing two sticks together or using dangerous amounts of lighter fluid. Mealtime might not be as much fun without the risk of serious burns or food poisoning, but sometimes boring survival is preferable over a memorable death.

While I wasn’t a fan of the outdoors as a kid, youth camping trips are still necessary to train the next generation of arsonists.
There’s absolutely no upside to sleeping in a tent, which is the only reason people still do it. They mistake deliberately inflicted inconveniences for survival skills that set them apart. Crapping in the woods doesn’t prove a guy can last out there on his own; it just shows he’s bewildered by the complexities of modern toilets. Sometimes that metal handle tricks even the best of us. For the guy who digs a hole to poop in, I’m sure the sense of self-satisfaction is worth the risk of contracting cholera and dysentery. Real outdoorsmen show how tough they are by getting both simultaneously. That’s why they pack nothing for their excursions but 45 rolls of toilet paper.

To some, even toilet paper is an excessive luxury. The ultimate outdoorsman would wipe his butt with a sharp stick or maybe a poisonous snake.
Camping would be fine if it was necessary to map new frontiers or make scientific discoveries, but we now have computers and satellites to handle all of that. The time for exploration is over. Every touted advantage of camping can be enjoyed through an activity that’s indoors. Getting drunk alone is more practical in a locked bathroom than in a hunting lodge. Bonding is less sexually confusing and more sanitary in a bar than in a cramped tent with other guys. Even the absence of modern amenities can be simulated under a roof. Flipping the main circuit breaker in a house enables would-be campers to attain their desired level of hardship without ever walking out the front door. After a few months of staying inside, former outdoorsmen won’t even remember the sun exists. That’s when mankind will officially win the war on nature.