Jim Kayes’ Blog: The politics of camping

While camping in Mangawhai, Jim is envious of his mate’s luxurious tent set-up which includes a bar leaner and Nespresso coffee machine. 

It was a warning that came with a potential cost.

“Dad,” the youngest said, “You swore lots at this last year, so this time, every time you swear you owe me a dollar.”

It is our standard bet and widely used across a range of things; first into the water, best wave bodysurfed, cards and when we disagree on a fact until someone is right and in the money. Its purpose this time was to curb my swearing as MC of the annual Waihi Beach Surf Life Saving Club fundraiser evening involving a Q & A with All Black greats Sir John Kirwan and Grant Fox. I wasn’t sure she was correct but she insisted I’d had a potty mouth last year.

“You always say,” the youngest continued, “that swearing shows a lack of decent vocab so now you have to pay if you swear.”

I’m fairly sure my daughter wasn’t too fussed if I swore, but simply saw a chance to generate a bit of money to spend on ice creams. It didn’t work because I slipped only a few times and won that back on the waves the next day.

There was a greater risk of foul language a week later though when we shifted north to Mangawhai Heads and, from a camp motel, moved into our new tent. Thankfully, my language wasn’t tested because the eldest daughter and her mate put the tent up (and took it down too which was a bonus).

It meant the holiday started on the right foot at the adult level. If you watch any couple, at any campsite, put up a tent together it is a minor miracle the marriage survives.

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We only have recently become a tenting family again. My wife and I used to be campers and spent one glorious summer cruising the East Coast with a tiny tent and only a few things to cook with and eat off. But the tent was packed away for good when we were flooded in Omapere in 2004 and forced into a motel unit at the campsite. The only thing worse than putting up a tent is taking one down in the rain. It’s just as well there was no swear jar in play that day.

The girls have pushed us back under canvas (or polyester taffeta as it is today) with the highlight of the summer a week at Mangawhai Heads with the surf club.  It was pretty evident, as I packed the ute, that the simple days of camping were behind us. We weren’t travelling light, but we were still not as heavy as some.

Camping envy is real and there was much to admire in some of the set-ups at Mangawhai, inspiring my wife to write a list of things we need for next year. One mate brought a bar leaner from home, while another had a fridge (not uncommon), Nespresso coffee machine (genius, as it’s small) and a herb garden.

The secret to camping is space and the good set-ups have an extra awning with drop-down sides so it stays useful if the weather turns. It is a room that can be lit, that might feature a table and that could, as my mate’s did, include a fridge, coffee machine, and garden. It can be a mixed benefit though as it will become a gathering point. The bar leaner was well used and my mate with the coffee machine joked that one morning he’d made 28 for others before he made one for himself. But that’s the essence of camping – sharing stuff.

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Milk in the communal kitchen fridge seems to be universally shared. Who really knows which bottle belongs to whom and when you’re just topping up the coffee, does it really matter? Not needing the camp kitchen is the mark of a glamper (glamourous camper). With a small fridge and a gas cooker, their independence is assured, as is the safety of their milk from poachers. That, apparently, is our goal with an awning, cooker, table and fold-away kitchen bench on the shopping list.

We’ll need a bigger ute to carry it all too.

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