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Tent-Camping in a Wheelchair By Fran Lo

The first thing you need to know about camping is the dirt. There’s a lot of dirt, and you just have to live with it. Dirt on your shoes, dirt on the floor, dirt on your clothes, dirt on your skin. The other thing is bugs. You’re up close and personal with mosquitoes, moths, ants, midges, and all sorts of other creepy crawlies. There are screens on tents, and also on RVs, but tents close with zippers often, and these are just not as effective as at home.

Add this to being in a wheelchair, and you have some interesting situations. For example, going to the bathroom. Although most campgrounds and parks will say they have accessible bathrooms, we know that sometimes this is not true. There may not be enough room for a walker or wheelchair, or some things are in the way, or little girls use it because they think it’s fun. Don’t get me started on “accessible showers.” Too often there are steps required, no handrails or grab bars, a fantasy instead of an actual accessible shower head. If you have a chance, scout the facilities in advance, or just assume there is no shower for you, and that peeing may present challenges.

There is a problem getting into the tent because it has a liner with a 3 inch lip (I think this is to keep out water, but all tents seem to have lips – arggh!) I think you need a threshold ramp. Also, pushing my manual chair on uneven grass was tough, so definitely use a power chair.

Campgrounds are noisy because you have little between you and the world, in this case, a scrap of thin fabric. Most campgrounds have quiet hours but who wants to enforce it?

For all the challenges, there are entertaining strangers, friendly strangers, people dealing with their own difficulties which brings comradeship, nature (see below), and fresh air that really picks up the appetite. Food always tastes better when camping.

This time, we went in a tent which meant we had to carry with us our beds, our kitchen, as well as everything else. And set up/packing up are really time consuming. Next time, we will try an RV, a trailer that includes kitchen, bathroom, built-in beds, and screen door and windows. Not only does it have everything built in, but it has a floor. I don’t think I can use my wheelchair inside because there’s not enough room for it, but I can move around by holding onto built-in furniture, and to strategically located grab bars. Haven’t taken it out because it’s unwieldy, and tiring to drive with, but there are lots of local places where we can camp. I can’t wait!

Here’s our tent – big because of the wheelchair. This is a 12-person tent (12 people in sleeping bags right next to each other would just fit). There were 2 of us. Below is the tent we use for eating (it goes around the picnic table, and provides shade and respite from the bugs).

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