Rediscovering the outdoors

Published March 19, 2021, 12:54 AM

by Pinky Colmenares

A cure for the quarantine

The good old days of simple joys are back! It comes with a name — car camping. It’s nothing new to many people who had grown up in the province or had been a boy or girl scout in school where the standard activity is camping.

It’s easy and cheap to do too for a couple, a family, or a group of friends. Simply put food and things for the day or for the weekend in a vehicle, then drive off to the boondocks or the beach.

There, you can set up camp on a flat spot facing a remarkable view of nature, unload chairs, tables, food, cookware, and start a fire. Cook what you brought, open cold beer, sit on folding chairs, and breathe in the fresh air. And in the quiet of it all, you can also enjoy a conversation.

That is the simple joy that has pulled families away from their comfortable homes to drive out of the city and sleep inside tents — without Netflix, air-conditioning, or thick mattresses.

A family of campers: Alexander and Mitzi Gonzales, with children, Alyssa and Alexy, at the Eagle Trail in Tanay, Rizal.

One of these car campers is Alexander Gonzales, 49, who started a Facebook page named Car Camping PH (I am a member) in December 2020 and by February 2021 gathered 7,500 members who were also into that kind of outdoor activity.

It’s a good page to get information and entertainment. Members share camping experiences, campsite locations, fees, amenities, and road conditions going there. There are also exchanges on the quality of camping gear and where to buy them.

Gonzales, who is an avid fan of car camping or “overlanding,” as it is known in other circles, has visited at least 30 campsites. He and his family started camping years ago, finding pleasure in the long drive (sometimes over off-road terrain), and the simple joy of enjoying nature, and his 4×4 vehicle.

He said the page was inspired by the growing followers of outdoor activities. It had also encouraged many people who had stayed home because of the pandemic and the lockdowns to go out for a long drive to enjoy the open air.

One of the attractions of car camping is that it is affordable. You bring what you eat, sit on, or sleep under.

In that page, you will also see the many types of kitchen setups — from the DIY variety to the pricey outdoor store’s neatly packaged kitchens.

For sleeping quarters, campers display colorful and high-tech types of tents – from the easy pop-ups, traditional dome, to the roof rack tent. Or it can be as simple as an awning that rolls out of a vehicle’s roof.

Gonzales is obviously a seasoned camper and his vehicle and outdoor gear says it all. His vehicle is a Toyota FJ Cruiser. Storage at the back includes its own air compressor, a portable toilet, a folding shower tent, dual burner stove, griller, small table, camping chairs, and a four-person tent. Sometimes, he sets up a roof top tent on his FJ Cruiser.

“For long overlanding travels, I built my own trailer, with power from a 12v battery (with solar charger), and lighting, its own kitchen, built-in stove, sink with faucet, LPG tank, side awning tent, foldable tent enclosure for a toilet, battery operated water shower, and the roof top tent. It’s all you need to enjoy and survive in a campsite, and it is carried in its own compartment,” Gonzales explained.

If you’re a first-time camper, don’t worry that you don’t have such outdoor gear. You will get there –if you fall in love with the outdoors! Like Alexander did.