You may be wondering how we came to be the proud parents of our little Bobbie. After all, we used to be perfectly content sleeping atop air-filled polyester rectangles in a triangular prism of ripstop nylon. It all started one summer many years ago . . .
The end to tent camping:
We were on our way to a camping weekend in northern Minnesota. The only park in the state that’s “hike-in only,” George H. Crosby Manitou State Park is one we’d been to before. Though the name is overly busy, the park isn’t. Free of car-campers and even cart-in campers, it’s an escapist’s dream. Situated on the Superior Hiking Trail, the campsites—luxuriously isolated from one another and well off the root-strewn path—are nestled in a lush mix of evergreen and deciduous trees that allow only dappled disco light to hit the forest floor. Only at the river’s edge, where the intoxicating aroma of pine gives way to the sounds of the rushing river, does the sun find an unencumbered path to the surface. Best of all, within this pristine sylvan setting, you can go for days barely glimpsing another soul.
We’d passed several glorious days there the summer before, and the husband was as eager as I was to repeat the experience.
Or so I thought.
At a gas stop near the shores of Lake Superior, like water breaching a failed dam, the startling truth came tumbling out, likely prompted by his mounting dread as we got closer and closer to our rustic site. I got into the car rambling on about my excitement over returning to our beloved park, when out of nowhere he blurted, “I don’t even want to do this!”
Uhhh . . . what?
Turns out he had had it with tent camping. He was sick of gnarled tree roots jabbing him in the back, tired of the futile battle with mosquitoes, weary of the effort it took to cook up a bad meal. (He doesn’t subscribe to the maxim that even the lowest forms of food taste great cooked outdoors over a campfire. Heretic.) I sat in the car in stunned silence listening to him bemoan that we were driving three hours to “just sit around.” He was not looking forward to backpacking in, sitting around a crackling campfire, or sleeping under the stars. Even the thought of s’mores—s’mores!—or swimming in the cool, clear, cascade-studded waters of the Manitou River held no allure for him. He was done. Unbeknownst to me until that moment, and for reasons he has yet to fully explain, he had moved several ticks to the right on the Travel Architect Scale of Happy Camperness.©
But we were nearly there, and he was
stoically grudgingly committed to seeing the two-night trip through to the end.
We hiked in, set up camp, and made a fire. As we began assembling things for dinner, the weather began to change. It started to rain lightly, but no matter. A few sprinkles weren’t enough to interfere with our dinner plans. But before we could get anything fully heated, the sprinkles morphed into a heavy rain on their way to becoming a downpour. We grabbed what we could and dove into our tent. Keep in mind that this was a lightweight backpacking tent, not one of those luxury stand-up two-room palaces some people have. It’s pretty much lie down or bust. There is room to sit up right under the apex at one end of the tent, but only if you’re short and don’t mind your head brushing the ceiling.
The rain wouldn’t let up, so we tried to make the best of a bad situation. We nibbled granola bars and whatever else we had that didn’t require cooking. I think we tried to play a few hands of cards, but it was pretty uncomfortable in what was essentially an elongated doghouse. Except to run to the outhouse, the rain kept us imprisoned in our nylon cell all night.
The next morning we awoke to a soaked tent and drizzly weather. Still tense from the bad night and the bomb the husband had dropped the day before, we began to “discuss” our options. Naturally, the husband predicted continued rain and wanted to pack up immediately and head home. I went the opposite direction, voting to stick it out with the hope that good weather was on its way. I was keenly aware that the experience thus far only added fuel to the husband’s anti-camping fire. Voices were raised. Things were said. In the end, I relented. “Fine!” I shouted and began to tear down camp. We worked in icy silence until a sweep of the site revealed all our possessions were on our backs. I stormed out of camp ahead of the husband, refusing to hike with such a %$*#ing &*#^@ %*^!$, and high-tailed it back to the car as fast as I could.
We haven’t been in a tent since.
Not long after, but fully reconciled, we were regaling our friends with our now-funny camping misadventure, when one of them asked, “Have you ever heard of a Scamp®?” We hadn’t, but we didn’t stay ignorant for long. We learned that the small, lightweight travel trailers are made right here in Minnesota. The husband, who had long harbored a dream of exploring the country in a 1960s-era VW camper van, was sold. After a few minutes on the Scamp® website, I was, too.
It took a couple of years for our dream to become a reality. We needed to save up money, and in the meantime we settled on the 13-footer. Normally a State Fair Hater, I dragged the husband and the trailer-promoting friends there because I knew the Scamp® folks would be there with some of their models on display.
Once during those years of saving, I’ll admit that we had a brief flirtation with an R-Pod®, but the affair was short-lived—bordering on speed-dating. We left the dealership knowing it was just too heavy for our car to tow, though the unscrupulous salesman tried very hard to convince us otherwise. There didn’t seem to be anything out there that could match the Scamp® for weight.
Eventually, we set a date a few weeks into the future, marking it as the day we would order our little Scamp®. Yet in those intervening weeks, something kept niggling at the back of my mind. There were seeds of dissatisfaction there, centering on both the Scamp’s form and function: the unit’s rounded corners eliminated too much storage space and some of the storage was just plain ill-designed, there was no place to put even a small microwave, and inside it looked dated. I found myself at the computer night after night typing in every iteration of every search term I could think of in a desperate hunt for what seemed to be missing. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but I knew that I’d know it when I saw it.
- “lightweight travel trailer”
- “smallest travel camper”
- “mini towable camper lightweight”
After many nights of this, I entered some magical series of just-right words and up it popped—the thing I knew would replace the Scamp® in my heart and my driveway.
It was Bobbie.
Alone and waiting for us just outside Toronto, Canada, it would take 1500 miles and four days of risky March driving to bring him home, but that’s exactly what we did.
We’ve never once looked back.