Camping Comfortably | Two Decades of Kids and Counting | Sally Torbey | Palo Alto Online |

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By Sally Torbey

Camping Comfortably

Uploaded: Apr 24, 2015

Last Friday I let go of the illusion that I am not middle-aged when I walked into REI in search of a new sleeping pad for camping. I have always prided myself on my ability to sleep for weeks on end on the thinnest of mats with nothing but a fleece in a stuff sack for a pillow. But, with my daughter's Girl Scout troop's camping trip only hours away, I had to face a harsh new reality. My current camping gear was completely inadequate. I could no longer bear to spend even one night tossing and turning, and immobilized with a stiff neck and aching back in the morning. Particularly since we were kayaking the next day.

You'd think the extra pounds that come with middle age would provide more cushion on the hard ground, but it doesn't work that way! I needed to admit to my age and limitations and take action. I approached the young, outdoorsy salesclerk. Feeling completely and utterly humiliated, I asked to see the most comfortable camping mattresses they sold; weight, size, and cost were no consideration.

Fortunately REI employees are not only knowledgeable about equipment, it seems they are also trained to be sensitive to middle-aged women who are mourning the loss of their youthful vigor. Luckily, those of us born at the tail end of the baby boom benefit from all those active boomers who have aged before us. I was thrilled to discover that since I bought my featherweight pad, all sorts of wonderful equipment has been invented to keep us oldsters happy in the out-of-doors. The trick is to park right next to the tent site! I was so happy that when I stretched out on my comfy new mattress in the store, I hardly noticed that the salesclerk had to help me up off the floor.

Both the camping and the kayaking were wonderful due to the great night's sleep I had on my new mattress. I endured some embarrassment from the noise of my battery-powered pump inflating and deflating my mattress, but the peaceful slumber was worth it.

I'm considering investing in one of the new tents with built-in LED lighting. Maybe the LED lights will illuminate the tent enough at night so on the next camping trip I can leave my reading glasses at home!