How to live in a tent for three months

One of the things that makes travelling in America so great is the fact that you can find super cheap accommodation options. Our choice was to camp. These pictures show our various camp sites and, as you can see, our’s was not the most spacious of tents! We have a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 – amazingly light, packs down small and still roomy enough for 2 (as long as you have somewhere for your stuff!). And it’s pretty!

Happy hour at the Tusayan camp site
Happy hour at the Tusayan camp site

Rule #1 You need a car! When planning on spending this long living in a tent, you must have a car. The reason for this is that you don’t actually live in your tent – you just sleep in it. Your car is way more than just your transport – it  becomes your storage cupboard and wet weather lounge room too. TIP: get a car big enough to be comfy in when it rains for a week solid.

Riley Creek camp site
Riley Creek camp site

We got very adept at setting up the tent. There is something extremely satisfying about arriving after other campers and being finished with your set-up before they are! When you move every day, this routine can become tedious but, doing it once a week is okay.

Rule #2: Go slow. Seriously – just take your time. Our ‘philosophy’ is very much along the lines of the slow food movement in that we love taking our time to really experience a place. Not the buy-a-house-in-Tuscany-and-learn-Italian new life sort of experience, but certainly more than just a typical tourist experience. A day might do for some (even a flying 4 hour visit) but 3 days was a short visit on our trip. TIP: spend more time, but do it in less places 

Living with a car as your wardrobe and pantry
Living with a car as your wardrobe and pantry

Another thing that we got really good at was packing the car. We were lucky to have a car with a trunk large enough to fit all of our gear. This is a huge bonus when the weather turns inclement and you need to get your stuff packed away in a hurry. You still need to be organised though!

Rule 3: Be as organised as you can be. You will have a tiny amount of space and will need to use it for multiple purposes. TIP: take as little stuff as possible – it’s easier being organised when there’s less to organise!

Lee Vining camp site
Lee Vining camp site

The camp sites we had in the US were generally amazing. Considering the price (+- US$10/night), the size of each site is more than generous; there is pretty much always a table and a fire pit and your car can usually be parked on site (most could even fit a bus on the site!).

Rule #4A table is a must. Tables extend your options by giving you a sturdy surface for cooking and prepping your food. Camp chairs are great, but the cheap ones (which are the ones you’ll have bought from Walmart) are not very chiropractically sound – the table’s bench also acts as a foot rest, giving lower back relief. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always put your sleeping bag over the table and make a fort! TIP: Keep your food packed away properly when in National Parks – bears are the big danger, but squirrels are the real menace!

Naughty squirrel on table
Naughty squirrel on table – this one ate our peanut butter lid!
Girdwood campsite
Girdwood camp site

In Alaska, we soon found that the low cost of camp sites came with a small down side – toilet facilities were rudimentary. The worst was Girdwood (above) where there were two port-a-loos – one of which was nearly overflowing, the other not far behind! Yuck. To be fair, they were generally OK, but there were more long drop toilets in Alaska than we have here in Australia – even in a public park in the middle of Homer the toilet was not a flush one. Clean running water was also in short supply (in public places – I’m sure people had it in their homes!). Showers were another thing that was missing from most places we stayed – I think we averaged a shower every 4 -6 days in Alaska!

Rule #5: Get used to being dirty and to using unsavoury facilities. TIP: In harbour towns the harbour master’s office usually has a shower block – $1 or so gets you a shower. Much cheaper than the ones in laundries which can be up to $8 for a shower!

Camp site at Seaside Farm, Homer AK
Homer camp site

 

Seward camp site 1
Seward camp site 1

 

Another bushy campsite. Valdez, AK
Valdez, camp site

 

Camp site near Fairbanks (Rosehip campground)
Camp site near Fairbanks (Rosehip campground)

 

Staying in a cabin allowed us to dry out our wet tent after Fairbanks' wet weather
Denali “cabin tent” after a week of wet weather

 

Santa Cruz camp site
Santa Cruz camp site

 

Inside the tent
Inside the tent

 

Camp site near the Grand Canyon
Camp site near the Grand Canyon

 

View over Kachemak Bay from the funny at Seaside Farm
Not our tent, but the view sums it up nicely – living in a tent is cramped, but can be awesome!
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2 thoughts on “How to live in a tent for three months

  1. Definitely a great way to travel. My wife and I used to do several multi-week trips like this each year before our daughter was born. Once the tot gets a bit older we’ll get back out on the road again as a family I’m sure. Glad you folks had such fun on your adventure!

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