The “Shake-down” Trip
The first trip of any new season (or any new camping type!) is really the “shake-down” trip. It is where you figure out what you forgot, what might not be working well, what well and truly needs to be replaced or updated. Every year and every shake-down there is something. It may be small, it may be unexpected but there will be something. And honestly, depending on how much gear gets shifted in and out of the camper with each trip or gets used around the house or for a picnic, it can be true from trip to trip that you forget something or something breaks. But the “shake-down” is the trial run at the beginning of the season or before a really long trip that is meant to help you figure things out so that you are READY for subsequent teardrop traveling.
It is also the trial run for any new gear you have. This time we are testing out some new pans and some led lights we installed in the camper under the cabinets. We are also testing some cups for coffee. And it is a good way to test out a new recipe or method for cooking so that everything gets to the plates hot.
Typically we like to do these for a short trip not too far from home or somewhere that we know isn’t too far from “civilization” (otherwise known as close to a gear shop or hardware store). Usually these are weekend trips somewhere in the area where we won’t suffer for too long if we can’t find/fix/replace something and have to make do.
There were the trips where we realized we didn’t have bathtowels with us or had lost the handy stretch clothesline and the one where we forgot to bring a sponge and dishtowels (paper towels work wonders in this case, but not so much as bathtowels). There was the infamous trip to Woodstock where I forgot to pack underwear and had to stop at a lingerie shop in town to buy some. I explained that I wasn’t looking for lacy or sexy- I was camping. They laughed and told me I wasn’t the first camper to show up in Woodstock without panties and recommended some that have become my favorite brands.
There is always the trip where you forget milk or butter (which are now on our permanent lists of what to make sure you have) and you need to figure out what to do. There are the trips where the camper battery unexpectedly dies (we do a lot more to check for the battery health now) or you forgot to put the camper rugs in the camper. Much of this has helped us to refine our checklists of what to pack. Most things that can go wrong aren’t the end of the world, but it is always a more enjoyable trip if you have everything you need and everything works. And great if you remembered all the gear you’ll need if it starts to rain heavily.
This year we are trying out the most convenient shake-down ever- we are at a campground just two miles from home. And of course a few things have already gone awry. The hose nozzle that we almost never use (but this site has water hookup) and that seemed fine when we were checking things a couple of weeks ago now doesn’t work. The extra dog leash that we usually keep in the camper for those nighttime pee runs wasn’t there. I forgot to bring a couple of computer and phone cables and maybe it is time to buy some camper extras. One of our strings of lights has broken and needs to be replaced. The big table light that seemed to work fine is a little dim and needs batteries. And as I went to make breakfast, I discovered that the block of cheese I grabbed in my haste to get out the door friday night after work was moldy. We were able to work around all of these things (no hose, extra leash in the dog bag, let the laptop die down and live with it, forget about putting up the string lights, put another light on the table and use the cheese meant for another meal).
Of course the nicest thing about a shake-down close to home is that you can stop back to pick things up if it was just something you forgot or that needs a battery you don’t have in your spares.
Or, if it turns out to be a really cold rainy weekend where you can’t do the biking you were planning and you are already feeling bone-chilled and worried about the allergies turning into a cold, it is easy enough to bug out and go home and change up your weekend plans. Because you got your chance to test the new mint chocolate chip marshmallows and you can allows make some more s’mores at home in the fireplace.