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Story Behind the Stuff: My First Tent

This post is about how camping gear gains sentimental value. While supplies are worthwhile in and of themselves, the memories associated with them make them priceless. 

Meet my first tent, Ruby.

You know how people always talk about their first kiss or first car? Well, that’s how I feel about my first tent.

It was my family who first introduced me to camping. My parents were patient hikers, taking the time to teach me about wildlife and encouraging me to explore nature. The evenings were nothing short of magical, full of stargazing, marshmallow roasting and storytelling, with the smell of wood fire thick in the air.

When I grew older, I wanted to share the experience with my friends, so my parents bought me my own tent. Looking back, it was a behemoth, weighing way too much to take on the trail. At the time, though, it was a kid’s kingdom.

I never named it, but looking back on all the experiences we’ve had together, now I want to. Let’s call her Ruby.

Ruby led me to the recognition that tent poles must be related to magic wands.

I took Ruby camping over and over in the state parks near my hometown. There were times during multi-family trips when I claimed the entire four-person tent for myself.

Slumber parties became an occasion for pitching Ruby in the finished basement, dragging down the air mattresses and sleeping bags, flipping on the battery-operated lamp, and binging on snack food all night.

Even after my friends were gone, I would often continue sleeping downstairs in the tent for several more nights. Reportedly, one time I kept this up for a month.

I learned this was the best view in the morning.

Perhaps most memorably, Ruby came to represent the Gryffindor Common Room one cold October evening. As middle school students, my friend and I planned a Harry Potter party in which our fellow bookworms were invited over, sorted into Houses, and challenged to a rousing game of Quidditch.

Yes, the flip-flops match the tent. No, we did not plan that.

Ruby languished during my college years, but I retrieved her from my parents after graduation to take her camping once more. In 2008, my former roommate and I set out from Houston to Pedernales Falls State Park (curiously pronounced “Perd-i-NAL-es” by most Texans). Laden like two beasts of burden, we hiked to the primitive camping area and pitched the tent.

True story: the angle of this shot is due to the lack of anything to set the camera on, so we suspended it from a tree branch.

The next May, we broke out the tent again for some coastal camping at Goose Island State Park in Texas. This time, my friend’s dog came along too, keeping us cozy at night after we had explored the park and nearby beach town.

This is the good life!

Ruby hasn’t been out of storage much since then, as I’ve upgraded to newer and better equipment. Still, the only way I’ll ever bring myself to give her up is if she finds her way into the heart of another little kid with big dreams.

I’m an ardent camper for many reasons, but I know Ruby is one of them.

Ruby and me in 2014

Update, 10/13/14: I did end up selling Ruby at our garage sale. It was to a couple of grandparents who said they wanted to pitch the tent in their basement for their grandkids to play in. They hoped that, when they got older, the kids would want to go camping. Work your magic, Ruby!

What piece of equipment has been meaningful to you? What stories have you shared with your tent? Leave a comment.

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