As you can imagine, being a wheelchair user isn’t always easy. It can turn simple daily tasks into significant challenges, let alone participating in recreational activities such as camping that require much more effort…packing, setting up the tent, navigating uneven terrain, not having a convenient washroom, etc. I’ll say it, for most of my life I hated camping because it makes my life harder than it needs to be.
…until I met my wife. She grew up camping with her family and loves being out in nature and sleeping under the stars. Right from the start we compromised and I agreed to being dragged on one camping trip per summer. Luckily that arrangement involves the beautiful Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick…with their accessible washrooms and trails, accessible cookhouses, and even accessible picnic tables if requested. If anyone with a mobility disability is going to enjoy camping, it’s there. After a few years I actually began to enjoy the camping experience, but the one downfall I couldn’t escape was tenting.
Setting up our tent from a sitting position can be difficult. It requires me to either transfer to the ground to help with the poles, or I simply do not have the height to help hook the fly on. This usually results in my wife doing most of the work. Not to mention the non-accessible related issues with tenting like being on the ground. Not only can it be cold and wet, but why are there always huge ant hills on the good tent spots? And have you ever tried to set up a tent in the rain? What a mess! There is nothing worse than setting up on damp muddy ground and having wet sleeping bags. Also I can’t shake the feeling of being more susceptible to wildlife, ranging from annoying to even dangerous. Oh and bugs. Like I said..camping isn’t always easy. We have tented for 10 years now and for the past few years we have played around with the idea of getting a trailer to get up off the ground.
We then faced another issue. Most of the trailers we saw were too high for me to get in and out of easily, so accessibility was difficult. The other issue is tow weight. Our vehicle cannot tow more than 1500 pounds. So we were left wondering: 1. do we upgrade our vehicle to be able to tow more? And 2. even if we can tow more the trailer would most likely be too high for me to access. Because of these concerns we continued tenting.
Until one day recently when we came across the SylvanSport GO posted on the Leisure Time Facebook page. It was exactly what we were looking for…and didn’t even know existed! With a tow weight of roughly 800 pounds it checked one requirement from the list, but the big one was if I could get in and out okay. We went to look at it and were pleasantly surprised. Not only was it the perfect height for me to transfer into from my wheelchair, but everything was exactly at my level which meant I could help set it up! I was able to crank the top up, help pull out the sides, connect the fabric, and put the poles through. It was wonderful! My wife joked that now she could sit back with a cold brew while I did all the exterior work. For the first time I got the feeling that camping could be easier. We could be up off the ground, but not too high in a big RV, and have something we could tow easily. And a wonderful perk – the storage! Because of my wheelchair, and our big beautiful Bernese Mountain dog, space in our vehicle fills up fast when camping. Last summer, after all our gear was crammed in we didn’t even have room for our cooler! Since the SylvanSport GO is essentially a utility trailer as well, there is room for everything we will need while being out in nature….even kayaks if we want! And speaking of coolers…the GO’s storage compartment doubles as a cooler…how cool is that (pun intended!).
So me…the non-camper..is actually looking forward to next summer’s camping adventures. No more one-trip a summer for me…we’re already planning a trip to Cape Breton, PEI, and northern NB. We are so happy we found this gear-hauling coolest-camper ever…essentially the swiss-army knives of pop-up campers with it’s multi-uses. #HappyGOing.
Jon & Sarah