For as long as I can remember — beginning with Boy Scouts — I’ve enjoyed a good campfire. There’s just something about sitting around a fire with hot dogs, stories and good company.
Despite the excitement surrounding electronics and space travel and the fact that Paris and Barcelona are so thronged with tourists that locals are rioting, camping as a hobby is alive and thriving. State, national and private campgrounds are often filled to capacity … with waiting lists, says ReserveAmerica.com.
Times Have Changed
Camping today isn’t like those post-WWII/Korea days when dad made you carry his canvas shelter half and web belt, then had you skin a rabbit and start a fire with one match to prove you were a man. Camping today can be downright luxurious.
When carrying 35 pounds of food and water plus my tent and sleeping bag through the Appalachian and Colorado hiking trails became too rough, I bought a 27-foot Winnebago pull-behind. Compared to sleeping in a tent and drinking from streams with a LifeStraw, the camper is a castle.
It’s important to think about your security when camping, but I can never quite decide what to carry. I’ve carried my Smith & Wesson .380 in a pack’s side pouch, but at 6+1, it weighs a pound. For short hikes or for a couple days, it’s doable. For the longer hikes and days of backpacking, that pound has to go. I try to stay vigilant on the trail, but in a bear or mountain lion attack, the .380 would be useless.
Concealment, Not Cover
In the Winnebago, it’s different. Campgrounds are crowded and becoming more so. The RV Industry Association says the industry ships 500,000 units a year, from pop-up campers to land yachts. Because these campers need to be sturdy, weather-resistant and easy to pull (lightweight), they’re made of lots of plastic, thin aluminum and “wood” composed of sawdust and glue. Nothing much to stop a bullet, even my 102-grain Remington Golden Sabers.
Thus, camping provides concealment, but little or no cover. Charged by a grizzly in Glacier National Park? “Experts” say play dead. Confronted by sketchy characters, though — and there are plenty — you have to fight.
In a campground, you may encounter drunks, thoughtless individuals and the occasional criminal. Several years ago — before I began carrying — in a KOA outside Orangeburg, South Carolina, a man walked into our Volkswagen camper-tent at midnight and asked for drugs. We were trapped in the fold-down bed. We had nothing more than aspirin, so he left. Talk about lucky.
Now, with the Winnebago, we can at least lock the door.
Have a Plan
Around a campfire, we’re sitting ducks, so one of us carries at all times. Without a means of self-defense handy, you might think of rushing into the RV to retrieve your handgun. Mistake. Now you’re trapped inside if a group of hooligans shows up or someone starts shooting. That’s no good, because an RV of practically any size and style provides concealment but no cover. There’s nothing in there to stop a bullet except maybe a refrigerator loaded with frozen food.
Most importantly, no criminal wants to be in a fight in a crowd. Make sure everyone in your party knows the safety drill. Plan your excursions wisely.