Matt's Blog

Primitive Camping & Working

by bagnaram

This summer has not been your average one. With a quarantine upon us, and a friend from Europe who planned a short visit turning into an entire summer stay! Anyhow, we were chatting and thought a camping trip would be a lot of fun and a great way to spend some time outside. With the summer months ahead, we prepared for the planned two-week trip of primitive camping across the US states of Colorado and Utah. (this eventually ended up being a month trip) This would require some planning since I work full-time and we had never camped for this long of a duration.

The first thing to do was to plan a rough itinerary of places we would like to visit. Using a casual list of places, we could piece a route that would be ideal for both of us and then plan campsites from there. I knew I wanted to see the Great Sand Dunes national park, and she wanted to see Utah. The next step was to draw a path that hits as many of these locations in a single pass, while providing ample camping opportunities. My friend pro-actively did this step and provided a fantastic tour we could use as a basis for the trip. Another consideration was the mobile coverage and ability to connect to internet for work. This was achieved by viewing the T-Mobile coverage map for a specific area. Any areas lacking service would need to be close to a town or village providing those.

We prepared for the trip a few weeks prior by purchasing the equipment we thought would be vital for such a trip:

Camping List

  • Collins Camp Axe - Handles more like a hatchet. Multipurpose with mallet end used to stake in the tent.
  • Jackery Power Station 250 - Provides around 8 hours of continuous electricity and features production of pure sine-wave output.
  • Walmart (Ozark-trail) Single Burner propane stove - Screws on Coleman propane canisters and provides a cooktop. Used frequently for meals.
  • Coleman willow-pass 4 person tent - Held up for the entire trip.
  • Cooler
  • Sleeping bags
  • Blanket
  • iProtec 800 lumens flashlight
  • Bucket for washing
  • Lawn chairs
  • Cookware
  • Industrial plastic tub containers for storing food.

This list doesn’t include everything, but it provided a good basis for the trip.

Camp Life

Caping in Sonoran Desert

The first campsite was just outside Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was found on the service FreeRoam. The app lists known camping locations including BLM and dispersed sites. This specific location was behind a cattle guard approaching a mountain. The landscape in this location was so vast and upon arrival we battled gusting winds while cooking and setting up the tent. However, the views were incredibly stunning. This was the point the freedom that camping provides really began to show. The ability to stay in these locations was only enabled by the nature of primitive tent-camping.

We stayed at many types of campgrounds, all of which were unpaid drive-up spots on public land. Colorado consisted of many mountainous sites covered with Ponderosa pines and Aspens. Utah featured more barren desert camping surrounded by shrubs like Sage, Juniper, and small cacti like Hedgehog cactus. Arizona was the most diverse state featuring cool pinion forests in the northern areas, and hot Sonoran deserts in the south surrounded by Seguaro, Ocotillo, and various low lying shrubs. New Mexico was similar to Arizona with more highland deserts.

This trip taught me how to deal with extreme temperatures, with cool rainy locations in the Colorado mountains, and extreme heat desert floors in Arizona. It also made me get creative with cleaning and water. Because many public gyms and shower locations were closed, we often bathed using bio-degradable soap in rivers, and lakes. This included some hotel stays during the trip which we can launder and clean out everything.

We certainly became resourceful during this time, looking to the sun for scheduling our activities to avoid the heat of the day, and often turning to shady locations for a siesta.

After a day of adventuring, we typically retire to the campsite with some cooked dinner, chat time and maybe the occasional Netflix film around a campfire!

Work Life

Working on Mogollan Rim

This was a work trip! That means I needed to log in and answer calls and customer meetings. This was all made possible with the T-Mobile tethering on my phone, and the Jackery power station. In fact, some of my favorite work experiences involved sitting on a mountain-top in my lawn chair with the spectacular views around me. Nothing like it. Yes you have to deal with sun, weather, and allergies, but it is a lovely world that we live in and it is such a blessing to be working in a career that allows this flexibility.

Sometimes weather wasn’t all sunshine, and cellular signal was not available. At these times, I was restricted to public locations such as cafes, public parks, and even restricted to my car. Nevertheless, because I was able to work this whole trip, it made it possible to stay an entire month.

Cooking

Meals on the trip consisted mostly of soups and a lot of tacos! These meals are simple, don’t require too many ingredients, and can be prepared in a pot with water or skillet. We brought some rice, beans, and purchased vegetables that would last like potatoes, and cucumbers. Protein consisted of beans, eggs, and lentils. (We didn’t cook meat on this trip). Groceries were obtained every few days, along with ice to stow in the cooler. This provided ample nourishment alongside occasional restaurant visits.

Nothing is better than waking up to a cup of joe at camp. This was relatively easy and only required water. We used instant coffee cooked on a pot and mixed in shelf-stable creamer. Ahhh.

Activities

Grand Canyon

Our free-day activities would revolve around exploring the outdoors. Therefore, we quickly purchased a National Parks pass for $80. This is worth the investment for even a few park visits. It allows unfettered access to every park in the multiagency pass system. We visited many of these parks:

Many Parks!

  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Colorado National Monument
  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Navajo National Monument
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Montezuma’s Castle National Monument
  • Tuzigoot National Monument
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Coronado National Monument
  • Gila Dwellings National Monument
  • Big Bend National Park

That’s a whopping 15 parks, and that doesn’t include the numerous National Forest and BLM land we stayed on.

Hope this inspires you to get out and see the great outdoors! Primitive camping offers the most stunning locations, and can easily be done on a budget.