We started working on our campsite early this summer. We chose a wooded area up behind our spring, so we would have shade and privacy, but also easy access to the water.
We got to work clearing the area using rakes, loppers, shovels, a mattock, an axe, and a gas-powered string trimmer. Our dad also brought his chainsaw to remove trees and larger bushes. We cleared an area large enough for two large tents, a storage tent, and an eating/living area.
We cut smaller trees into short lengths to create a border for our tent. Our dad used his chainsaw for this project, and he used the opportunity to give Bonnie-Jean some lessons. She did great!
The log border was tricky to install but turned out great.
The last step for our tent pads was filling the areas with wood chips. We planned to purchase chips, but after figuring up the cost for purchase and delivery, we decided to purchase a Brush Master 5 in. chipper/shredder from Home Depot. We got a great deal, and so far we love it. We created our chips from all the brush we had previously cleared from the area. We also chipped up some old cedar we found around our property to help deter bugs. The whole process took a couple of days, but it felt great getting rid of all our brush piles.
We also did prep for camp sanitation: toilet, shower, and laundry area. We have our camp toilet set back from the rest of the campsite. We used a pallet as a base and built a frame. Inside, we built a pallet wood toilet box. It works with 5-gallon buckets, which makes waste removal and disposal easy. It’s quite the upgrade from the plastic seat and bucket system that we used to have from Walmart. We sewed three shower curtains together and used shower curtain loops to make an enclosure.
We made a shower out of an old Canyon hula hoop and shower curtains. We hung a solar shower inside with a pulley. It worked, but our shower curtains didn’t hold up to washing as often as they needed, so they already have to be replaced. For laundry, we built a clothes line on the other side of the creek in the sunshine. We purchased some large plastic tubs from Menards (not pictured) for washing laundry in.
Prepping our campsite was a quite a process, especially considering the 45-minute drive from our apartments. But we packed a lot of lunches, and since we try to avoid gluten most of the time (due to dietary concerns for certain family members), we had to get more creative than sandwiches. Kabobs were always a favorite choice — usually with precooked meatballs, pineapple, onion, bell pepper, and a glaze made from natural apricot spread and coconut aminos.
We eventually decided to move our firepit to the other side of the spring.
We planned to start camping full-time in August, but we got Covid instead. A month later, we finally pitched our tents, just in time for fall.
We use our big tent for sleeping. Our blue tent is for storage — food, dishes, extra linens, and other supplies.
We love our 11′ x 20′ Ozark Trail tent. We got a great deal on ours this summer at Walmart.
We were using one picnic table for dishes, drinks, and cooking. Since this picture was taken, we bought a plastic table for the dish pans and drinking water, which we put a short distance away from the eating area. The table inside the screen is for eating and card playing.
Of course, we had to unpack some of our fall décor. Family members have other tents around our little compound, giving it a downright festive feel.
Keeping clean is one of the most difficult things about camping. We are so thankful for our spring!
We love our clothes line system. There are four lines, which gives plenty of room for all our clothing and linens. We hang our SeaSense hand bilge on the end. We use the pump to get water from our spring for washing clothes, dishes, and for showering. It is a ton of work — I think we will all have stronger arms after this experience! We should have running water from our well in the next couple weeks, and that will feel like a luxury! It’s been good for us though — we have realized how spoiled we were.
One of my favorite things about our campsite is all the trees. There is plenty of room for all of our hammocks. I hadn’t used mine since moving a couple years ago, so unpacking it was a real treat.
Camping this fall has been quite the experience. It has been strangely dry for Missouri, which has made the campsite very dusty. For those of us who are clean freaks, the dust has been a not-so-small trial. Our solar showers work well some days, but there have been several evenings with cold showers. The flies and mosquitos have threatened to drive us crazy. While September is usually a warm month in Missouri, we had some down-right cold nights that sent us back to town to get warmer gear. And doing everything the old-fashioned way has made for some long workdays that stretched into the night, with us falling into bed exhausted at the end. Stress and emotions have been high at times.
Still, the benefit of camping has far outweighed the hardship. We are living our dream debt-free. We are greeted each morning by fresh air and sunshine, and we eat breakfast next to a campfire. The exercise has been invigorating. The sunny weather has meant we got to work on our foundation every day, which was such a blessing. Plus, we are saving thousands each month on rent and utilities.
Camping also provides an extra level of festivity for life’s simple pleasures. We enjoyed visiting friends, card games, marshmallow roasts, and plenty of laughter around the campfire — all rendered almost magical beneath a sky full of stars and trees threaded with string lights. We have dreamed of doing what we are doing for so many years, even now it is difficult to believe it is actually happening. And as someone who has spent many a summer week camping, I can say that autumn is definitely the best time to camp in the Ozarks!