Camping sucks. It’s exhausting and uncomfortable and smelly and there are far better ways to spend a weekend. At least that’s what I thought until a year ago.
Camping was not a common form of recreation in my family. I grew up riding in cars through canyons and taking long road trips as a family, enjoying the mountains from behind the frame of the back seat window. I went on the occasional obligatory campout with church groups or family reunions, but I never appreciated it much. The only experience I had ever had with camping was cramming and strapping 50 lbs worth of gear into a giant backpack and lugging it for miles to a campsite only to be exhausted when I got there so, in my mind, camping just wasn’t “my thing”.
Fast forward to a few years ago and the development of my addiction for trail and mountain running. The more I ran trails, the more I loved everything about it: from tangled hair to dirty ankles – which often stay that way for days at a time – and being in the backcountry away from cities, cell service, and complications of daily life. The more friends I made in the trail running world, the more of their adventures I found myself participating in. In many cases, that included camping out of cars at trailheads before big adventure runs. Camping that way had never even occurred to me, so I decided to give camping a real chance. That many people gushing about how much they love it can’t be wrong, right?
Man, I had no idea just how right they were. This year especially I’ve made efforts to go out on some quick overnight car camping trips to explore great ways to do it without a ton of planning, gear, or even campsite reservations. I’ve learned about camping on open public lands, areas that don’t require reservations, where to go to get away from the crowds and noise, and most importantly, what gear makes for a really great experience. And yes, I’ve even figured out how to sleep well at night (Pro Tip: earplugs.. just trust me).
These short trips have really opened my mind to how quick, efficient, and insanely enjoyable camping can be. I’ve been enjoying it so much I decided to celebrate my birthday this year doing exactly that: grabbing a bunch of dirtbag runner friends, heading out into the desert with cars full of gear and food, throwing down on random BLM land, and running in some incredible scenery. We decided on Canyonlands National Park, so on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we loaded up and headed south.
Our first order of business when we got into town was to find an excellent spot to hang some hammocks and chill for the afternoon. We headed up Kane Creek, found some trees, and hung up our hammocks.
The great thing about hammocks these days is that companies like Grand Trunk make the system so lightweight, easy to adjust, and super quick to set up and take down. This means you can cut the fuss and get straight to lounging under massive red canyon walls.
Setting up camp that night was a breeze. Tents are one of many things about camping gear that have changed drastically since I first tried it as a kid. Many brands are really picking up on what makes for a great camping experience and how to reduce a lot of the hassle (and amount of gear) required to get a campsite settled. The entire North Face Homestead Collection blew me away.
The Roomy 2 two-man tent took 5 minutes to set up, including adding the fly.
Normally a two-man tent is still kind of an awkward experience when it comes to keeping track of your gear and especially electronics. The Homestead Roomy 2 tent totally has that under control. It includes a built-in vestibule under the rain fly for tucking your gear away. It also has pockets in all four corners inside the tent, a cable around the ceiling for hanging lights or cables, and the pouch for the stakes and poles doubles as a gear pouch that can be hung up high between these cables.
The Homestead Twin 20-Degree sleeping bag was warm and roomy without being stuffy or heavy, and even includes a phone pocket on the inside.
What tent set would be complete without food management? The North Face has this covered, too. The Snackle Box snack pack has two separate sides, one for dry food and one to keep your drinks cool.
The Homestead Roadsoda waterproof roll-top backpack is a great way to carry some of the larger items required for cooking in the backcountry. Even when loaded up with frying pans, skewers, spatulas, and small propane tanks, it fits comfortably and transports easily with no fuss.
The North Face has really thought through the details with this collection from comfort and gear storage right down to the matching materials and the complimentary design of the food bags.
The big priority after setting up camp was, of course, FOOD. Sitting around the fire with some of my favorite people has quickly become one of my favorite ways to pass time, especially if it involves food. Staying up way later than we should when we had planned an early start the next morning is hard to avoid when you have great conversation, fire-roasted brats, desert stars, and comfortable seats around the fire. The GCI Outdoor Firepit Rocker was an amazing addition to the camp chair collection with its quick-unfold construction, comfortable rock, and oversized cup holder that even fits my giant Hydro Flask (or in this case, my Bose Bluetooth speaker and myCharge All Terrain portable charge bank).
After sacking out Saturday night, we all got up Sunday morning and made the best breakfast I’ve ever had in the backcountry (sorry, Girls Camp leaders).
Using the GCI Outdoor Slim-Fold Cook Station and the Camp Chef Everest two-burner stove, we quickly set up a stove and made some REAL food, the lack of which had previously been a major gripe of mine about camping.
After breakfast, we headed out with a load of friends including TAUR Co-Owner and Chief Editor Matt Williams and TAUR Contributor Chelsea Hathaway to crew and run with CEO Craig Lloyd on the final day of his back-to-back-to-back 35-mile runs along the White Rim Trail.
We ran the Schafer Trail from the main road into the park down the most epic desert switchbacks ever and onto the White Rim. The combination of the Nathan VaporHowe 4L and the Katadyn BeFree soft flask was perfect for hot desert backcountry running.
We cranked up the tunes and ran, crewed, threw snacks at each other all day long, and thoroughly enjoyed one of the best days of running I’ve ever had.
Pairing this new (to me) way of camping with backcountry adventure running has completely blown my mind and has very quickly become one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend.
Check out the video recap for more antics and views from an incredible weekend car camping and adventure running!
Huge thanks to the friends who made it my most memorable birthday yet and to the brands who contributed the outstanding gear that made the weekend such a success!