Camping in a slide-in camper

or, glamping is not real camping

To channel Sophia from The Golden Girls: “Picture it. Clingman’s Dome. 1985.”

It was mid-October; I was three weeks old. My mother, three weeks post-C-section, hiked to the top of Clingman’s Dome to get a picture with me on the tallest peak in Tennessee and the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi, clocking in at 6,643 feet. Afterwards, she tent camped in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my father’s family on their annual camping trip.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present Firestarter’s mom, the OG badass of my family:

Clingman’s Dome, October 1985, baby Firestarter and mom

I now have a child of my own. I also had a C-section. I did not hike up the tallest peak in Tennessee and then tent camp in mid-October in the Smokies with a three-week-old. I apparently am not as tough as my mother, but I knew this already. 

Instead, last Saturday, Firestarter, ThrillBilly, and nine-week-old baby Henry (FireBilly? ThrillStarter?) camped in absolute comfort and ease at Chickasaw State Park

ThrillBilly had shoulder surgery when Henry was three weeks old. Extreme way to get out of changing diapers, buddy.

We were fortunately gifted an older work truck. With the money we’ve been saving up, we purchased a used slide-in camper for it. We are planning a two+ week trip out West to introduce Henry to Bill’s family in Albuquerque, and to see friends and sites on a lazy path up to Oregon. 


Traveling for an extended time with an infant – even in a fancy camper – brings its own challenges, so ThrillBilly and I decided to do a few trial runs. The first was a brief overnighter in a state park just outside of Jackson, Tennessee.

Lessons learned:

  • Bring cash smaller than a $20 to buy firewood within the park
  • Remember cooking add-ins like olive oil and spices
  • Make sure the fridge actually cools
  • Do not fry hamburgers in the skillet (because you forgot small bills for firewood and had no charcoal for the campsite grill) in such an enclosed space unless you want hot grease spattering over everything within a 3-ft radius
  • Bring charcoal

Small victories:

  • Rigging up a mobile using an Edelrid climbing sling 
  • Having an awesome dog who protects her brother from things that go bump in the night
  • No major meltdowns
  • Remembering the hammock
  • All electric and water worked without a hitch


I know this is glamping, and I am craving a backpacking trip, but I also crave every moment I can get with my family. A family backpacking trip will happen when Henry is older. (When do babies take their first steps and have enough balance for a pack? Don’t worry, it would be 10 liters or less… )

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