Toast marshmallows, listen to owls, watch the moon rise, identify celestial constellations.
(Did you know the word 'planet' is said to be derived from Greek for 'wanderer'? Or that while stars twinkle, planets merely glow? Or that by lying back watching the heavens on a clear night you should see a 'falling star' about every 20 minutes? And that these are really just small meteors burning up as they bump into our atmosphere? At least this is what my astronomer instructor reckoned when I studied outdoor education many, many moons ago.)
Although US National Camping Month appears to be a construct of the marketing department for The North Face, pioneer of the geodesic dome tent, the underlying theme is very sound. TNF cite the Outdoor Industry Association's 2008 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report in reporting that from 2006 to 2007, there was almost a 12% decrease of participation in outdoor activities among American children ages 6 to 17 years of age.
Aaron Carpenter, Vice President of Marketing for The North Face says in the media release. found at Outdoor Business Update "The North Face sends expeditions to the world's highest peaks and most remote locations, but the goal of National Camping Month is to get people outside anywhere — a summer-long backpacking adventure, a week-long camping trip, a one-night campground outing, or simply a backyard tent."
And the young-at-heart don't need an expensive, high-tech, ripstop nylon tent to enjoy the camping experience. After checking the weather forecast for a fine night, even a unwanted bed sheet, a tatty length of canvas or an old tarp will be enough to evoke the great outdoors in the backyard. Although candles are very atmospheric, they are rather fraught with danger for unsupervised younger kids. Insulate the youngsters from ground cold, give 'em books, fun food and torches (flashlights) and they should have a memorable night of adventure.
For grown-ups camping can strip away the veneer that otherwise shields us from the closeness of our interrelationship with 'nature.' Spending most of our lives indoors we can be lulled into a false sense of security. We seek out buildings just as the Peanuts character Linus clings to his blanket. Yet wildfires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and the like, swiftly remind us that Mother Nature has little regard for our bricks and mortar pretence of shelter.
Sleeping in a tent allows us to hear the wind blow, the rain pitter patter, and the nocturnal critters go bump in the night. It removes the façade, putting us back on more equal footing with our fellow planetary inhabitants. And maybe it allows us to afford them a tad more respect as they go about their lives without creating a single skerrick of waste.
If camping has not previously been your thing, then consider taking advantage of The North Face's initiative to encourage and inspire Americans of all ages to get outdoors. Their retail stores will be offering free clinics on topics such as "how to select appropriate camping gear, how to pack a backpack, how to pitch a tent, how to make gourmet campfire meals and where to camp locally." There are also prizes of a holiday, gift vouchers and national park passes.
:: The North Face's National Camping Month
Photos: Warren McLaren / Inov8 (top: Larapinta Trail, Australia, lower: French Alps.)
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