MS Life: How I Make Camping Easier and More Fun
During my last camping trip, I noticed a caravan of trailers in our loop. In one of them, a woman using a wheelchair frequently zoomed around the grounds between sites.
That woman might be me someday. I don’t use a wheelchair, or any assistive devices…yet. I mean, I’ve used grocery carts as walkers and gardening tools as canes. Dizziness, balance problems, and veering describe my “flavor” of MS.
Her whizzing around made me smile. MS won’t keep her — or me — from enjoying the great outdoors.
Considerations when camping with MS
Here’s how I’ve adapted my camping experience to ensure more relaxation and less vexation.
I’m don’t use ADA-accessible campsites, but neither was the woman in the wheelchair. Still, these exist. Reserve as early as possible! Check your state parks for ADA site listings or visit the National Park Service for more details.1 Pitchup is a camping directory with disability facilities worth exploring in the UK and Europe.2
Most campgrounds offer online park maps and site photos. I consider close access to bathrooms, shorelines, trails, docks, and amphitheaters at reservation time. I look for spots with shade, especially later in the day, and avoid spots that appear windy, overexposed, or muddy.
If we didn’t camp by trailer, I’d consider reserving a yurt or platform tent. They’re “move-in ready”, substantially roomier than regular tents, accessible by ramp, and situated near bathrooms.
With our RV, we opt for a “full hookup” site. It rains a lot here, so we want TV access to play movies and use the microwave (because, popcorn!). These don’t run on an RV battery.
I also use a CPAP machine. You may also need to power other medical devices, like a chair. Even with full hookups, I still pack a CPAP backup battery. Power outages happen! Make sure you pre-charge backup batteries and include the necessary cables for recharging off the car battery.
My biggest MS-related pain comes from the MS hug, muscle spasms, and headaches. I keep a dedicated supply of both baclofen and ibuprofen in the trailer. I also pack my “MS cocktail” (including vitamin D and magnesium) in a pill minder to save both counter space and brain space.
Also handy: topical pain relief (like a CBD cream) and a TENS unit for super tight muscles. I bought myself a zero-gravity camp chair, which reclines. I’ve used it more than once, with layers of blankets, to sleep through MS hugs (which seem to happen at 4 a.m.). I also find this chair wonderful when daytime fatigue hits…I can sleep outside in the shade.
Some other things I pack that might be useful to someone with MS:
- A lightweight, collapsible portable table. Sometimes, picnic tables are in the wrong spot and too heavy to move.
- Premade food to simplify meals. Unless you want to spend all day cooking (which you might…camp food is delicious!).
- Recycled and recyclable paper plates and cutlery. They make cleanup a lot easier.
- MS first aid. A small medical bag carrying all my MS-related gadgets, ID, and meds for handy access.
- MS ID. I keep an MS medical information card — which includes my neurologist’s contact information and known allergies — packed with my driver’s license and insurance cards. You just never know.
- A small broom. I sweep my camp space to reveal tree roots or rocks to avoid.
- An awning. I pitch one over the table or behind the trailer to keep items dry.
- A bicycle cable lock. Because campground theft is real, this might come in handy for hitching certain higher-end items to the trailer bumper.
- Quarters. Useful for the campground shower (or to buy shower tokens).
- A small "go bag". I pack a portable cellphone charger, water bottle, toilet paper and extra underwear when I leave the site for an hour or longer. IBS is an MS-related thing that seems only to happen when I’m far away from a bathroom (grumble, grumble).
- Printed list of local services. Cell service may be spotty, but you might still need to know the location of the nearest grocery store, hospital, or hardware store.
- A headlamp. Useful if you need to go anywhere after dark (say, to the beach to discover bioluminescence, or to bring items under cover during a sudden storm).
- Cooling towelettes and ice. Overheating ruins everything!
- Waterproof slip-on shoes. A must! Easy on, easy off, easy to clean.
- Gas fire ring. I love me a campfire, but wildfire season means burn bans. A gas fire pit is a legal option.
- Restful activities. Books, magazines, games, music, adult coloring books, downloaded podcasts, earbuds.
- Service animal supplies. A leash and poop bags, especially.
- Disability placard. If your MS is invisible, you may need it for an uneducated park ranger.
Do you ever swear you smell smoke or cigarettes but there's nothing there?