This year I took the kids to Fathers & Kids Camp, which was hosted by the West Stake in the North Ghost campground near Waiparous. Despite the proven reliability of tents for camping, I decided to branch out and try something new: camping in the truck. With the rear seat folded down, the back of our 4Runner is about the size of a queen size mattress. I procured one and tested it out. I found that the wheel-wells get in the way a bit, so I stuck an inflatable twin-sized mattress under the queen to level things out, jamming some bags under the gaps. The ship seemed seaworthy in the quiet harbour of our garage, but the actual voyage was not so simple.
Gravity was one of the main issues. If the interior of the truck can be compared to a solar system or galaxy, I was the object of greatest mass, and all other objects gravitated downwards toward me. The mattress may have been 5 feet across, but Katie and I occupied only the first 17 inches of that -- a feat made possible only by me leaning one shoulder-blade against the soggy window pane.
Another issue was headroom. The interior of an old 4Runner isn't particularly tall, and once you stack two mattresses up, you aren't left with a lot of space to move around in. To top it off, Entry through the side door is next to impossible without kicking both children in the head, so I had to climb over the tailgate and then clamber up to the front of the vehicle to turn the key in the ignition and reach the button to roll the rear window up. Katie had been nearly asleep when Scott and I started to bed down, but by the time I'd finished my little dance, she was wide awake and wailing. Fortunately, she found it soothing to sprawl on my stomach and eventually settled down. Unfortunately, once she was asleep it was nearly impossible to move her without making a terrible racket (the mattress let out a loud rubbery squeak every time anyone moved), so she basically rolled off my stomach and embedded herself in the shadow of my gravitational pull.
I didn't have the best sleep I've ever had, I have to admit. I woke up every 2-3 hours and made sure everyone was still in their sleeping bags and still doing okay. The night was cold enough to leave frost on some of the vehicles, and somewhere near dawn I gave up on ventilation in favour of insulation -- rolling up the windows. The interior of the truck was already dripping with condensation, so it made little difference anyway. The kids woke up at 7:00 am, but I was able to delay our exit from the vehicle by another hour by turning on a Dora the Explorer DVD. By then, breakfast was ready and things were warming up.
We probably could have camped in the garage and it would have been all the same to Katie, as her favourite activity was to play inside the truck, trying all the different seats and buckling up the seatbelts. She rarely rides in the truck, so for her it was very exciting.
We didn't have much work to do in the morning, as packing our gear was as easy as removing the caps from both air mattresses and folding the seat back into place. We also didn't need to cook our own breakfast, as everything was provided.
I did bring one thing that is a must-have on all such camps: Nasty Cookies. Oreo Cookies are a family tradition and the kids broke into the stash at some point and totally gorged themselves. The culprits were easily identified.
There were lots of fanstastic activities for the kids to do, including a tug-of-war, painting rocks from the riverbed, fishing for toys with magnets, flying toy airplanes, picking up garbage to earn candy, and even shooting a potato gun.
Unfortunately, Scott's phobia of dogs rendered him nearly unable to participate in some of the activities, as one of the families had brought their dog along. The dog was leashed up for some of the time, but just the prospect that the dog might appear was enough to make him nervous and by the end of the camp he wanted me to carry him around for safety's sake. At one point we had a conversation about dog spray, and what a great thing it would be if you could spray something on you that would repel dogs. He was sad to learn that no such spray exists (except ones that reek of pepper).
Perhaps I should consider arming him with a potato gun for future camping trips.