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… )

Gear Review: Big Agnes UL Fly Creek 2 (original model)

home sweet home

[Disclosure: Big Agnes has come out with a newer model of my tent called the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2. I have not yet reviewed this model. If Big Agnes wants to hook me up, however, with this newer tent, or a Copper Spur 2 Platinum…]

When I started backpacking, I was surprised at the role mental and emotional factors played in a successful and fun adventure. There’s always the primitive, instinctual need for shelter, of course; but I found there’s also a craving for a sense of “home” when you are out for more than just a few nights.

Enter the Big Agnes UL Fly Creek 2 tent. Most nights, after 20+ exhausting mountainous miles, I would get to camp, do my “chores” (which included tent setup), and eat a hot meal. Once ready for bed, I would unzip my tent door, crawl inside, read for a while or map out my next day, and fall fast asleep. It was my home.  Continue reading “Gear Review: Big Agnes UL Fly Creek 2 (original model)”

Gear Review: Buck Metro knife

A.K.A. beer opener

I bought the Buck Metro a few years ago after my A.T. mentor The Missing Link mentioned it was the only knife he carried. I love this knife! I keep this as my everyday knife and take my small swiss army knife on backpacking trips where I may need more functionality.   Continue reading “Gear Review: Buck Metro knife”

Gear Review: Luci EMRG

Look on the bright side

I first saw the LUCI light on the Appalachian Trail. (Sounds like some old outdoors gospel song…) There were only four people in the shelter one evening, and a woman asked if everyone was OK with her hanging a light in the shelter for a while – to be turned off before hiker midnight (9 pm), of course.   Continue reading “Gear Review: Luci EMRG”

Gear Review: SPOT Gen3 GPS

If you need me, call me, No matter where you are, No matter how far

I bought the SPOT Gen3 a few weeks before hitting the AT in March 2016. The main impetus for this purchase was being able to stay in touch and let folks know my coordinates in case I couldn’t use my phone.

The SPOT GPS functions in a few different ways.   Continue reading “Gear Review: SPOT Gen3 GPS”