Dec 22 2008
The more temperate parts of the country might be warmer at this time of year than it is in the northern border region, but nights are long, nonetheless. Sunday marked the solstice, but it will take the sun a long time to make the return migration north. Until sometime in March, we’re all in the dark for much of the time.
Barney in Texas has been doing a bit of solo tent camping recently, and made the discovery that there’s a long dark span between setting up camp and going to sleep. When he’s at home in Comfort Castle, he spends those hours updating his blog, taking notes on his laptop, and pottering around with inside chores. But when away from a power point, what is a camper to do? How do you fill those dark hours in camp? That depends. Folks who are camping in company find numerous ways to entertain themselves, from playing cards and board games (small, portable games are available from big box retailers and mail order companies), to cooking and eating around the campfire, to talking and singing.
Solo campers often just set up camp, eat, then sleep the long night away. People who can’t manage to sleep that many hours wear a headlamp or hang a small lantern in the tent so they can read, while others plot their route for the next day.
Other ways to keep busy include making music with a portable instrument. Passive entertainment can be had by carrying a radio or MP3 player—listen to music, podcasts, or talking books in the warmth of your sleeping bag. And then there’s the possibility of watching DVDs on a small portable player of the kind travelers take for themselves or their kids on plane and road trips. That and a selection of DVDs would fill quite a few hours.
Many campers (present company included) keep trip journals to chronicle the day’s events. I’m talking about pen and paper here. My favorite bound journals come from my days as a field geologist. They’re books of water-resistant paper, hard-bound, and just the right size to fit into a pack pocket.
I’ve recently become a digital girl, though, and in recent years many new gadgets have come on the market to allow electronic journal keeping, complete with the capability of downloading digital photos. On a cross-country bus trip a couple years ago I used a PocketMail Composer® to keep notes. When I could get to a public phone, I sent my notes to my home email address using PocketMail’s toll-free number. PocketMail is a dated technology—it doesn’t have the capability to load and download images, nor can it access the web—and while it’s still a useful subscription service, its limitations have me looking for other ways to keep an electronic journal. I’d like to be able to file articles and manage the website when camping, touring, and on the road. More research is needed, as scientists are wont to say.
The upshot? Solo winter campers don’t necessarily have to go into torpor for the 15 hours or so of darkness that embraces camp before the sun rises again. When camping by myself, I’ll take a good headlamp, an entertaining book, a small radio or music-maker, and a stock of spare batteries. These and a paper or an electronic journal will keep this writer busy before Sandman arrives to carry me off to the land of nod.