Army Style Camping As a Kid

Do you love the outdoors? Do you love camping trips? Do you like to “rough it,” or do you like to have all of the comforts of home when you travel? Speaking of travel, is your idea of traveling to be constantly on the move – exploring new places, or do you prefer to go to a destination and stay put for a while? Whatever your traveling and camping preference, both have definitely evolved over the years.

Camping As a Kid in an Army Surplus Tent

My father loved camping! Being a pastor, he always had a month’s vacation, so the family would go to the Adirondacks for the month of August.

I had two much older brothers, one 15 years older and the other 10 years older. When they were in their teens my father bought a used 14’ by 14’ army surplus tent. Those tents are now a relic, but back then, it took the three of them to erect the tent, peg it down and dig a mote around the tent – no alligators.

Where my father and brothers loved the idea of roughing it, my mom was just the opposite. For her, we had all of the comforts of home – Coleman gas lamps, huge ice chests, “kitchen sink” washbasin, cots with inflatable mattresses, and even a makeshift shower.

Driving All Day, Finding Our Camping Ground, Setting Up Camp, and…

I will never forget our camping trip when I was about eight years old. The camping site we discovered that year was newly opened on a lake in the Adirondacks. Since nobody knew about the camping ground yet, we had our pick of a site and we had no close neighbors. We were really in the wilderness!

When we finally rolled into camp that first day, it was already late afternoon. By the time my father and brothers set up camp, we were starving. Though, not to worry: My oldest brother was an adventurer at heart. He felt that since we had an army surplus tent and equipment, we could also eat army surplus dehydrated food – cooked over a fire in the pit, since our Coleman stove wasn’t unpacked yet.

Once dinner was prepared, we took two bites and decided it was completely inedible—the self-picked chef could not cook. So, we had to pile into the car in the middle of the night and find the nearest fast food place (which was miles away), all the while praying that it would still be open. 

Camping On the Lake

Marked as one of the most fun trips I’ve ever had, and I’ve traveled a lot in my life, our campsite was only a short path from the lake. There was a rowboat at the dock that we used to take out on the lake – I actually learned how to row that summer. (Don’t tell anybody, but we even went skinny-dipping.)

At night we would have a campfire and roast marshmallows. On one evening, there was a tremendous animal fight outside of our tent. It was such a ruckus, but we had no idea what kind of animal was waiting for us on the other side of our thin barrier. In the morning, we discovered our site covered with porcupine quills.

With all of our army surplus gear, we even had a short wave radio. When it would rain (it rained a lot that year) we would sit in our “dry” tent – remember the mote – and pick up broadcasts from different parts of the world.

Family Camping Today

Sadly, it would be impossible to duplicate the kind of camping experience I had as a kid today. As an example, gone are the huge army surplus tents. Large camping tents today are quite luxurious; many have rooms and windows. Electronics have advanced so much that now you have a mini Camping Lantern Flashlight that can do what the Coleman gas lantern used to do. You can even take a battery operated TV with you when you go “roughing it” camping. But if you ask me, I am so glad that I grew up when I did and had that wonderful camping experience with my family. Truly, it’s a memory every kid should have.