Brandon Butler: Camping enhances outdoor experiences


Camping ties all outdoor activities together. It doesn’t matter if you’re going on a hunting trip, a relaxing weekend getaway or to an Octoberfest, the adventure of staying somewhere new is central to the entire experience.

There are many different styles of camping. A lady in the backcountry with a backpack and the guy hauling a 40-foot travel trailer to a racetrack are both campers.

Some of my earliest memories are of camping with my mother and father at Potato Creek State Park in Northern Indiana. The 3,840-acre park might as well have been Yellowstone in my youthful mind. It was where I first felt the freedom of wilderness. As soon as we pulled up to the gatehouse, my brother and I would unload our bikes and take off. We’d eventually find our campsite by cruising the entire campground.

My love of whitetail deer began on the bike trails through the woods and meadows of Potato Creek. I’d sit in the child’s seat on my dad’s bike, and we’d go look for deer. One summer, Uncle Tom made a rope swing out of a large vine. We’d pull it back as far as we could from the creek bank, then swing out, let go and drop into a little pool of water no more than 2 feet deep.

The experiences were my childhood version of Huckleberry Finn’s adventures. I don’t know what happened to the toys I had so desperately coveted, but the memories of these experiences are with me every day — and serve as a constant reminder of where value should be placed.

In the many years since those earliest adventures, I have enjoyed camping of all sorts. I’ve slept on the ground in a bivy sack deep in the backcountry and I’ve enjoyed ice cold air conditioning and a flat screen TV in fancy campers. I’ve enjoyed many different tents of various sizes and plenty of cabins. Yes, I think to a certain extent, you are camping when you rent a cabin. If you are sitting outside the place in a natural setting having a fire, it’s close enough.

Back in 2016, I bought land in the Ozarks and began an odyssey of building a lodge. While I loved every minute of this journey, it did keep me from going other places. Through an unfortunate event, the cabin is gone, freeing me to return to traveling around this great country in search of wildlife and wild places.

I camped a few times over the last couple of years. The trips I’ve enjoyed the most were spent in solitude. I’ve come to a point where I can’t camp peacefully in a setting where I may have to listen to another person’s music — or far worse, generator. I need either wide open spaces or rules usually reserved for 55 and over parks, even though I’m still more than a decade from that age.

One cool camping trip I took recently was with a teardrop camper. This is basically camping’s version of a tiny house. It’s like a hard-shell tent. There’s a bed and a little storage room with a canoe strapped on top. The brand I used was a Hyk. I pulled it to Steamboat, Colorado and camped in four different spots over a five-day trip. It was super easy to move around and provided all the necessities.

Moving forward, I plan to camp a lot more. I’m thinking my next venture needs to be into the world of camper vans. A few years back, I took a Winnebago Class B motor home, which is just a tricked-out extended sprinter van, to the Smokies. It was a perfect vehicle to travel in. I’d have to have four-wheel drive, and I think I can get by without a bathroom. My van just needs a comfy bed, organized storage system and a sitting area. I have a portable outdoor shower system, and in the winter, I can use the showers at campgrounds.

The van allows for hauling a boat or ATV along for the adventure. It’s small enough to keep one from wanting to hang out inside and is extremely easy to find a place to park. There’s no time needed to set up and break down a tent, but an easy-to-set-up screened tent outside the van is a good addition to any camp.

I plan to spend 2023 making up for some lost time and ensuring I use the years I have left exploring the incredible lands and waters we have in North America and beyond. Travel doesn’t have to be fancy. Whether you have a tent, mattress in the back of a van or a fancy fifth wheel, all you need to round out your equipment list is a couple of folding chairs, a few cooking essentials and a tank of gas to get you where you’re going.

See you down the trail …

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on or anywhere podcasts are streamed. Send comments to [email protected]


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