a peek inside the fishbowl

04 Sep, 2013

Packing for a camping trip (and a little help from Ford)!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Giveaways and product reviews|Oh! Things!|travel talk

We’ve been camping for years, ever since the girls were wee, and as much as I love camping  there is one thing I absolutely dread: packing.

It’s my job to pack up the supplies and coolers (although my kids are responsible for packing their own clothing) and it’s my husband’s job to pack it all in the car. I find my part of camping prep extremely stressful, even though I have been doing it for years and work with lists that I’ve developed over the past decade. It sounds ridiculous, but I am afraid of forgetting something. Crazy right? After all, if I forget something it’s not really a big deal. We aren’t camping in the remote wilderness. It might just mean a trip to Canadian Tire, a general store near the campsite, or worst case scenario… WE DO WITHOUT.

I have forgotten some pretty important things in the past, such as extra tarps (they keep stuff dry), maple syrup (the disappointment when the kids had to eat dry pancakes was positively tragic), cooking utensils (Mark had to fashion a spatula out of tin foil once), and shortening. I feel it keenly when something is forgotten, in fact it makes me feel like a failure when I do. (Sigh.)

So when Ford offered to loan us a vehicle for our annual summer camping trip you can probably imagine how grateful I was. It meant that we’d have tons of extra room and packing would be much easier! Yay!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that we’d wind up with something a little different:

Ford F150, ready to go!

… a brand-spanking new four door Ford F150. And hey – did I mention – I had never driven a pick-up truck before.

As I circled around this truck for the first time I felt slightly worried. But I got over myself soon enough. I realized that This Was Going To Be An Adventure and that I’d be a better person if I mustered the courage to drive something that was a little outside my comfort zone.

This is where I need to remind you (or maybe you knew this already) that we drive a Prius. We bought it in 2010 after thinking long and hard about how (a) what kind of people we are and (b) what kind of vehicular requirements we have. I personally believe that people are better off buying cars they need, not the cars they think they MIGHT NEED. So we decided that 98% of the time we needed our vehicle to help us fetch groceries and library books, and get our family of four from point A to point B in an efficient way. We have no real requirement for roomy seating or extra cargo space… that is, unless we are camping. Packing for a camping trip when the kids were toddlers was relatively easy. We had a smaller tent back then and they didn’t have as much gear. PLUS, we were able to pack duffle bags and sleeping bags under their feet. Well, kids grow. They’re a lot taller now (so no more stuffing things at their feet) and their gear overall takes up more space too.

Anyway, I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into this experience, but I was very pleased with the outcome. First of all, packing was a snap. For a change there was no a tetris-like undertaking of WHAT-FITS-WHERE and I did not hear any moaning or groaning about how much food I was packing.

Mark was happy, as you can see. Everything fit!

Ford F150, all packed!

The truck bed cover proved to be secure and water tight (we were rained on during the ride down). It’s worth noting that our loaner had a shorter cab – it was about 6ft long instead of 8ft – it was the perfect amount of room for all of our camping gear AND it gave us the added benefit of a lot of extra space on the inside. I had this preconceived notion that we’d be squeezed together like sardines, but nothing could be further from the truth. I couldn’t get over how roomy it was, and neither could my kids. Before we left my youngest pointed out that she could easily sleep in the back seat (which may have come in handy in case of inclement weather, but I wasn’t about to point that out):


Camping is the ultimate road test for this kind of vehicle because we regularly find ourselves in all kinds of different conditions, whether it’s plain ol’ highway driving, backing up between tree stumps, or driving along scary single-lane dirt roads through remote bits of forest (long story – but we did it!):

F150 on a wee dirt road

May I make some personal observations about our experience?

  • I was worried about driving the F150 at first but I really didn’t need to be. Ford has excellent safety standards. The vehicle handled really well and was easy to drive too and the cab of the truck was like being in a luxury vehicle. And I have to admit, it felt pretty awesome to be so high up off the road for a change.
  • There is much power to be found in the F150. This baby can tow 11,300 lbs (5,126kg). Sadly we had nothing to tow, but we noticed a lot of other F150s on the road towing all kinds of boats and trailers.
  • I’m a big fan of the tech. MyFORD Touch makes everything really easy, and syncing the system with my phone (“Call grandma!”) was a snap. Everything is located in the centre column, such as climate control, music, and communications. Here’s a funny thing, the GPS can’t be set if the vehicle is in motion. I understand why, but I couldn’t even set it while Mark was driving.
  • The backup camera was a sanity saver… and may have saved a few plastic beach buckets and small trees from getting flattened.
  • The F150 cost more to fill up than our Prius (doh) and we suffered a bit of sticker shock at the pump, but I shouldn’t even mention it because it is a very unfair comparison. The F150 has an exceptionally large tank – I think 136L and we took it far – but the fuel economy was better than I had expected. It’s rated 9.0L/100 km (31 mpg) on the highway in case you’re wondering. (Oh, and that visit to the gas station cost almost $170. Our Prius costs about $45 to fill up.)

All in all it was the perfect vehicle for our road trip: extremely comfortable, reliable, and it ferried all of our stuff (and was capable of hauling much more)!

I guess I’m now a fearless pickup truck driver! (Ok. ALMOST fearless. I’d be nervous navigating around a parking garage.) As for packing, I am not sure if I’ll ever be a fearless packer, but I’ve done it enough times to have learned a few tricks that help. Namely:

  • Use a list! Keep this list on your computer using an easily finable name (er, like “CAMPING LIST”). Fine tune the list every time you return from your camping trip. It will make your life a lot easier later on. Trust me on this.
  • Take it easy. You can always make a spatula out of tin foil if you need to.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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