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Going to sleep with a view of pine trees and innumerable stars, waking to bird calls and dew: these are the things that make camping worthwhile. Some parts of my strategy for camping with fibromyalgia worked very well; others need improvement. Here’s a run-down of the results.

  • Getting there: the drive to the campground was okay. We stretched several times and stopped for lunch. The drive back was harder. The total trip was 355 miles, as we spent a fair bit of time driving around the area checking out different beaches and looking for restaurants. We were in a hurry on the way back, and didn’t stop as often as we probably should have. This was beginning to trigger a pain flare, but I managed to nip it in the bud.
  • Having a co-camper ally to help manage the gear worked like a charm. (Thanks, camping buddy!) We’d both practiced setting the tent up recently, so that went off without a hitch.
  • Sleeping arrangements: my camping mat and other gear kept me warm, dry, and comfy. I do have some ideas for making sleep even better. I may want to try using an air mattress in the future, as a friend tipped me off that it’s even more comfortable than a thick camping mat. It may be more bulky to move around, though. It’s something to try. Another consideration is that I did two trial runs in the backyard this week, for a total of three nights sleeping on a mat on the ground. The extra runs made me a little extra sore. The trial runs won’t be necessary next time, fortunately.
  • Morning stiffness – I did some stretching, and that seemed to take care of most of it.
  • Other issues: We should have done more research on where to eat. We planned to eat out and not worry about cooking at the campsite. A number of restaurants were closed as it’s the off-season at the beach. It seemed like the only restaurants we could find had fried food or $30-a-plate dinners. We also looked for restaurants when we were already hungry – a sure way to get cranky and desperate.

Overall, it was a good trip. I did have to take steps to prevent a pain flare when we got back: medication, hot shower, lots of stretching. In the future, I may want to try using an air mattress, planning restaurants in advance, and taking my own advice about spacing out time in the car.

Rusty blackbirds are called “rusty” because their call sounds a bit like rusty hinges. There was a whole flock of them around our campsite, and we awoke to dawn light and a rusty blackbird chorus. Be forewarned that camping isn’t always quiet!

When did our “test run” in the backyard, we got a taste of what a fox’s mating call sounds like. It’s a bit disconcerting. (Here’s a sample from another Youtube user.)

All in all – if you’re going camping and you have fibromyalgia, either learn to appreciate nature noises or bring earplugs. I happen to like the ambiance, but if you already have trouble sleeping it might be good to come prepared for crazy animal/bird sounds.

As promised, here are some photos from camping. (Real update coming Monday!)

View of the tent

We have a Mountain Hardware Light wedge 3, which is…light. And rather small, but perfectly acceptable for our needs. Although it would be nice if we could stand up in it…The site was perfect – pine needles are comfy to sleep on, and as it’s the off season it was very quiet. We also (accidentally) ended up getting one of the larger sites, which was wonderful.

View from the tent

This is a view from behind the tent – we positioned it so that at night we could look out from our tent “window” and see the stars. There are so many once you get away from a city!

Campsite at Dawn

When we woke up! It was gorgeous, even though it was a little disconcerting to be roaming about that early.


Aside from testing the camping equipment, this was the whole point of our trip. It was too cold to swim – brrr, Atlantic in April – but walking alongside it was very relaxing.

I grew up with a camping family. It’s a cheap way to go on vacation with three kids and two adults, and it’s fun as well. Sure, there were some…incidents…involving my brother setting up his hammock underneath a raccoon’s mating tree, or when a couple of squirrels fought over a cookie all night long. They make good stories now, and I guess maybe they built character?

I think a good analogy for hotels versus tents that it’s sort of like the difference between driving and walking. If you drive, you’re better protected from the elements, it’s usually pretty comfy, and you tend to get places more quickly. If you walk, you get to notice more. Since it takes time to walk by that house on the corner, there’s time to notice the chihuahua in the window hopping up and down and barking like mad. You can notice when the tulips start coming up, and whether someone new has moved in to a house. It’s more relaxed than driving.

Camping is similar. There’s time to sit out talking by the campfire (it smells so good!). I like listening to the birds in the morning, or watching the sun come up. And the stars are amazing!

When I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I thought my camping days were over. Sleep on the ground? You’ve got to be kidding me. Set up a tent, carry gear, ride in a car for hours to get somewhere? Impossible.

I think it probably was pretty impossible when I was first diagnosed. I had trouble going shopping in one store, and I was pretty much limited to half hour car trips. I also stopped exercising because I was afraid of pain, which made it even harder to get around. At the moment, I’m definitely not “cured.” I still have aches and pains, and when I have a flare-up it is, well, agonizing. I really want to make camping work, though. I enjoy it, and it’s a cheap way for someone living on disability income to go on vacation.

I think the key to making camping is going to be having the right gear and being prepared. (Although really that’s the key to any camping experience. You do not want to be cold and wet.)

Here’s my camping plan, complete with accommodations and ways to work around common fibromyalgia issues:

  1. Getting there: long car rides are tricky for my back and my body. My doctor has recommended that I take frequent breaks. I think she said I should take 15 minute breaks ever hour, although that adds a lot of time to a trip. Whatever the case, I try to get out of the car and stretch frequently. Solution: take frequent breaks and stretch.
  2. Making sure I can manage the gear (e.g. setting up the tent, loading the car, etc.): This is where I probably need an ally to help me. I can do some of this, but no matter what your ability level, setting up a tent alone is tricky. I want to go camping with friends anyway, so this is pretty much taken care of. Solution: recruit a friend.
  3. Getting a good night’s sleep: Sleep is such an issue for people with fibromyalgia anyway. I think some people even use it as part of the diagnostic criteria. I managed to get a foam camping mat that is self-inflating and 3.5 inches thick. It’s not cheap, but I think this is one of the most important pieces of equipment. I do not want to feel every bump on the ground when I’m trying to sleep. I would also recommend checking night-time temperatures for the area you’re going to be camping. In my region, it usually drops about 20 degrees overnight. So if it’s a comfortable 65 degrees outside during the daytime, you’re going to be sleeping in 45 degree weather. I have a down sleeping bag from when I was a kid. I think any kind of thick blanket or comforter can work, unless you’re going in winter or something. Camping can also be noisy. I’m used to forest noises (birds, the occasional rustling), and I find them quite soothing. If the dawn bird chorus bothers you, you might want to get some ear plugs. If there are any sleep issues that you usually have at home, think about how you usually deal with them and try to mimic it when camping. Solution: Plan ahead, invest in a good sleeping mat, stay warm, and be prepared for things like noise and temperature.
  4. Morning stiffness: This is usually an issue for people with fibromyalgia, even when sleeping in a bed. Make sure you know some good stretches, and bring anything you normally use to deal with morning stiffness. I find menthol rubs such as icy-hot or Tiger Balm helpful, and Thermacare wraps are a-MAZ-ing. If cold is your thing, try bringing a small ice chest with some ice packs in it. It’s also good to bring any pain medication you have. Solution: stretch and use heat or ice therapy, as well as anything that usually helps.
  5. Other issues: All campers have to be prepared for certain things. Does your campground have showers with hot water? If not, investigate how other people keep clean. Do you have gear for inclement weather? Do you want to prepare food or eat out? Don’t forget to bring things like sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Check out camping guides and books before you go. Also, remember to bring anything that’s part of your everyday treatment routine – plus things for flare-ups – with you. Don’t forget your medication! Solution: Read up before you go, prepare for the unexpected, and bring necessities such as your medication with you.
  6. Don’t forget to have fun! Otherwise, what’s the point?

I tried a test run of my set-up in the backyard last night. It worked well, although I did have some morning stiffness. I’ve been stretching, and it seems to be going okay.

I’m going for a “real” camping trip Wednesday night – beach, here I come! So this is also a roundabout way of saying that there will be no Wednesday update. However, I’ll try to write up some after-thoughts about camping on Friday. Maybe I’ll post some pictures too, who knows.

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About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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August 2020


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