by Donna MacNaughton
(Reprinted from The RV Times March/April 2004)
In my family, I’m known as the Queen of Princess Camping. If you’re not familiar with the term let me tell you,
it’s the only way to camp.
As a child growing up in a large family, my earliest memories of summer vacations involved a large blue
canvas tent. We loved it! We had the freedom to race around the campground while my mother nervously
counted heads. At that point there were seven heads to count.
I remember arriving at a campground late one summer and my parents struggling to set up the tent in the
dark. My siblings and I huddled around the bug-encrusted headlights of the car to keep warm, blocking what
little light my parents had available to them. It was quite cozy with warmth against our backs, and those of us
sitting on the still-ticking hood of the car enjoyed the leftover engine heat against our thighs.
What I don’t remember is my mother making beds in that tent for six children, one baby, and two adults.
Those holidays bring back wonderful family memories—but I suspect that the memories aren’t quite so
wonderful for my mother.
When our family graduated to a tent trailer a few years later we were on top of the world—a very crowded
world, and we didn’t even care that we had to step over the bodies sleeping on the floor.
My Dad discovered one unique and not altogether pleasant aspect of camping in a tent trailer. When he set
it up, the canvas walls of the tent were simple to snap onto the edges of the beds that slid out on the sides
of the trailer. One morning he couldn’t find his pants even though he’d carefully put them at the end of the
bed the night before. I don’t think I was old enough at the time to realize that the stark look on his face was
caused by sheer panic. It wouldn’t have been terribly serious except that his wallet and all of our vacation
money was in his pants. The mystery was easily solved when he went outside and found his pants,
complete with wallet, on the ground below the bed.
During a similar vacation, we discovered that the bears in some of the parks had a special talent and it left
us feeling a little vulnerable sleeping in our tent trailer. The bears kept wandering underneath the
outstretched beds, bumping their heads. Whoever was lucky enough to have a turn on the bed also took
turns getting jostled through the night.
As impressed as we were by the tent trailer, the first time we camped in a travel trailer we felt like we’d finally
arrived. Who cared if someone still had to sleep on the floor? We did find it a bit uncomfortable the summer
my siblings and I had Whooping Cough. And it turns out that trailer walls aren’t much better than canvas for
blocking sound. Who knew? I suspect that we weren’t the only campers unable to sleep during that
Camping often leads to sleepless nights in my experience. This statement was reinforced for me when I
was in Junior High School and they made us go on overnight hikes as a class. For some reason, I could
never quite understand the fun part of carrying a twenty-five-pound backpack that held everything I needed to
survive for the entire trip. On one of those campouts, after a night of practically no sleep, I actually learned
how to tell the difference between the sound of a bear breathing outside my tent and my Asthmatic tent mate
struggling to breathe.
After a break from camping of many years, my vacations have evolved into something quite different. My
husband and I own a twenty-nine-foot trailer, and with our two sons, we make our annual pilgrimage to a
private campground in another province. When we’re on vacation these days, we park the trailer so that
when we step outside we’re on a wooden or cement deck. We step off the deck onto a small patch of grass
and from there we’re suddenly on the beach, a total distance of approximately twenty-five feet. The camping
spots are small, but they’re screened from other campers by rows of trees, and who cares anyway, we’re
camping on the beach!
The resort has complete hookups including cable and, if we want to arrange it, even has phone service. If
we want to use a Jacuzzi, there are two at the clubhouse. The campground also has a security gate,
playgrounds, and activities for the kids.
My family says that what we do isn’t really camping, but I say that Princess Camping is the only way to go.