As a paraplegic I constantly deal with access issues. One of the activities I have enjoyed for years is camping. I love the freedom of going places, meeting new friends, and staying close to the action.
Independent and free to be as active or as lazy as I want to be. Being a singer and songwriter one of my biggest camping trips each year is a 2000 mile round trip journey to the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville Texas. It is an 18 day folk music festival on an 80 acre ranch with every type of camping available. From sleeping under the stars to million dollar land yachts! I have attended this festival since the mid 1990's. Before my accident, I started out tent camping and had progressed to a pop-up camper that I inherited from my in-laws. It was small, light, and easy to pull and set-up. After my accident I did not want to give up on camping so with the help of a friend I began making my little pop-up wheelchair accessible! All that really entailed was making the door wider so I could get in the camper and buying a ramp so I could make it up to camper floor level. This definitely got me back into the world of camping but it presented me with several challenges I needed to overcome if I wanted to be an independent camper.
Challenge #1-The door had to be wider for my wheelchair to fit into the camper. I accomplished this by having a new storm door built with a four sided frame. I had to remove a small cabinet from inside the camper then with the help of an old racing buddy we widened the space where the door went and the new door worked perfectly. As a side note, I also decided to reverse the way the door opened so it would be easier for me to get in and out of.
Challenge #2-The camper did not have a bathroom. While I had never had a bathroom in my pop-up it was not too big of a deal pre-SCI. Post-SCI was a different story. With Bladder and bowel management issues using the public rest rooms at campgrounds was a crap shoot. (No pun intended!) Some were nice and clean but most would leave you with a less than sanitary feeling. Not good when trying to avoid UTI’s. My solution was a potty chair in my van with shades on the windows. Not my favorite adaptation ever but hey... it worked and sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.
Challenge #3-The complex regiment of set-up and tear down. Although this process was within my capability, it took much longer and drained more of my energy making the dampening my camping experience.
Challenge #4-Lack of space. I have found that as a general rule traveling Post-SCI requires more “stuff.” Also, since camping is mostly an outdoor activity I need space to carry my electric scooter as well as my regular wheelchair along with other adaptable devices that make life easier from a wheelchair. A pop-up camper has plenty of room when it is popped up but when you break it down storage space is limited which brings me to..
Challenge #5-The issue of how to get from ground level to camper floor level. In the world of accessibility there are generally two ways to go up and down. Via a lift of some type or a ramp. In this case a lift was out of the question so I purchased a set of 10 foot aluminum ramps that folded lengthwise and side to side. This worked great but did have a drawbacks. First, storage while traveling, then the weight of the ramps required the help of an able bodied companion, and when the ramps were set-up they extended 10 feet out to the side of the camper which made things crowded at most campsites.
After two years of wheelchair camping in my pop-up, which included one very wet and windy folk festival, I decided I needed to find a better situation. I started my search for a tow behind camper that I could afford.
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0915/0045