Happy Campers: 4 great ways to enjoy the outdoors
Meet four kinds of camping enthusiasts: the retro rover, the Insta-camper, the old-school explorer and the girly glamper.
Sleeping under the stars. S’mores by the campfire.
Cool air on a crisp fall morning. The solitude of no cellphone service.
As fall approaches, more Tulsans are looking for ways to spend time in the great outdoors. For some, camping is their modus operandi. Below, meet four kinds of camping enthusiasts.
Retro respite: Tiffany and Jimmy Hall
When Tiffany and Jimmy Hall arrive at the Water’s Edge RV and Cabin Resort at Grand Lake, folks turn their heads.
Who wouldn’t notice the Broken Arrow couple as they pull in and park their late 1960s red and white Playmore trailer? Often before they’re even unhitched, they have people walking up to find out more.
The small trailer solved a problem for the lake-going couple.
“I love the lake. I grew up going to the lake,” Jimmy says. “We have a boat, and the daytrips were just getting old.
“Since I met her, (Tiffany) has talked about getting an old RV. I thought, let’s do it. That way we can hang out all day on the lake and not rush home.”
Tiffany scoured the internet for the perfect one. When she found their first camper — a 1960s turquoise and white Shasta — she was in love. The couple purchased it and shortly after began renovations to update the kitchen. They named it Lil Hall’iday.
It fit their needs, except one: It didn’t have a bathroom.
That’s where their newest camper — the red and white Playmore — came into play. It sleeps four, has a dinette in the kitchen and has the coveted potty room. And the deer motif was “what sold it,” according to Tiffany, who quickly had “Oh deer, the Halls are here” added to the exterior.
They are keeping the Shasta for now as the couple is considering buying land and more vintage campers, with the dream to rent them out on Airbnb.
When the Halls load up for the weekend, they bring their Boston terrier, Frankie, who has his own vintage camper-themed dog bed.
At the lake, the three spend much of their time on their boat, which is docked nearby. The camper is used for sleeping and meals.
The Halls do prep work, including some pre-cooking, at home before heading to the campsite. One trick they’ve learned is to crack eggs and pour them into a pop bottle, which makes for easier transport and quick cooking for Tiffany’s famous breakfast skillet. The filling dish lets them stay longer on the water before their next meal.
Of course, grilling is a go-to, and Tiffany is learning about cast-iron, Dutch oven cooking — a nod to the “vintage” aspect of their camping motif.
They also have joined Green Country Vintage Glampers, a group that celebrates, embraces and teaches others about the nostalgic campers.
“What we’ve learned is anything can be fixed,” says Jimmy, who has already rewired and re-plumbed the Playmore.
The vintage camper not only makes lake trips more convenient. It also makes memories.
“We’re both working 8-5, Monday through Friday,” Jimmy says. “We’ve been married 16 years. I ride motorcycles and motocross, which takes up a lot of time, but this we can do together.”
The couple — Tiffany, 37, Jimmy, 39 — dreams of taking their vintage camper to the ocean, camping out on the beach.
They have no plans to purchase a modern camper and happily park alongside 40- and 50-foot RVs worth tens of thousands of dollars. After all, Jimmy says, “They’re not having more fun than we are — guarantee it.”
Insta-worthy experience: Homma Camp Co.
When Jessica Brent and DeAnna Cooper decided to embark on a pop-up camping service for the Tulsa area, the couple knew they wanted to provide a balance of comfort and adventure for their customers.
Three years ago, they founded Homma Camp Co., which caters to customers who are wary of sleeping outside or who don’t have the gear nor the time to set up camp.
Inspired by vintage sleepaway camp, a la the original “Parent Trap” starring Hayley Mills, Homma “tries to capture the classic essence of camping and outdoors,” according to Brent.
Homma’s gender-neutral setup provides a compromise between roughing it and full-service hotel. Customers can choose from three levels of service: BYOB (bring your own bedding), lounge tent and the complete experience.
Tent setup and teardown at the outdoor site is included in BYOB. And as the name suggests, the camper provides all bedding and cots for the stay; Homma does some light styling of the space. For $300, Brent says this is a popular choice for backyard slumber parties and easy campouts.
Lounge tents are great for receptions, birthday parties or special events, Brent says. Homma works with the customer to design a space perfect for guests. Chairs, poufs, rugs, lighting and ambiance are set for $400 per event/weekend.
The Complete Experience
The complete experience starts at $450 and includes a fully outfitted tent with bedding, tables, chairs and lighting. Vintage rugs cover the ground. Lanterns illuminate the bell tent.
“People contact us because they’re not campers,” Brent says. Instructions for building a fire, tent operation, food handling and more come with the rental.
Homma partners with Hope Egan of Red Thistle Catering Co. to provide menus beyond the ordinary hot dog or s’more.
Throughout the year, Oklahomans can see Homma at music festivals, special events and neighborhood parties, set up as a display or for use, like at the recent Camp Out OKC event at the Myriad Gardens.
Homma has partnered with Living Kitchen, a farm-to-table dinner service in Depew, to offer campouts in tents and in Homma’s newly restored Airstream nicknamed Twyla. The camper sleeps four with a kitchenette and air conditioning. Twyla sits on the Living Kitchen farm and is only available to confirmed dinner guests. They recently purchased a second trailer, Mickey, which also will be used at Living Kitchen.
The Living Kitchen sleepover is one way Homma has branched out to provide more meaningful camping experiences.
“I want our customers to feel they had a unique, valuable experience,” Brent says. “Value in the outdoors, value in the time with friends and family.”
Keeping it classic: The Rich Family
Tent camping is a way of life for Donnie Rich and his family. The father of four has been camping since he was a kid. He even recalls camping during the school week as an Edison High School student.
“When our kids were born, we just continued the tradition,” Rich says. The kids are now 6, 9, 18 and 22.
The Rich family camps two to three times a month and plans big trips to destinations across the country four to five times a year. Around here, Keystone State Park, Chickasaw National Recreation Area and the Illinois River are favorites.
It’s an escape for Rich, who owns the Blackbird on Pearl and the Shrine, popular music venues. “In the music business, it’s music night after night,” he says. “I’ll have four shows in a row, go up (camping) on a Tuesday, come back on a Thursday, just to get away.”
The family has camped Yellowstone, Yosemite and numerous other national parks. If he’s headed to Colorado, someone will ask him if he’ll stop at Red Rocks to catch a band. The answer is a hard “no.” “I don’t even play the radio,” he says.
There are even times during their trip where no one speaks for hours — and that’s OK. For Rich, camping is about getting back to the basics. “I’ve thought about RVs. I’ve thought about campers,” he says. “But I also like to camp where you can’t take those things.”
That’s why the family also loves backpacking. Donnie and his wife, Katie, recently returned from hiking 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains. He and some friends spent a week in the Glacier National Park backcountry. Closer to home, the whole family often loads up backpacks and takes on the Greenleaf State Park Ankle Express trail.
No matter the destination or camping situation, the Riches always come prepared. “It’s like moving almost, sometimes,” he jokes about loading up for a weekend excursion. There are the tents, sleeping bags and coolers. Then the dog, its bed, food and treats. And don’t forget the toy box, filled with magnetic checkers, a tightrope for the kids, travel Scrabble and a deck of cards.
To those who think tent camping is the less expensive way out, think again. He points to gasoline to get there, permits and entrance fees and, of course, the gear.
“We always buy really good gear because we want it to last,” he says. “I don’t want to be somewhere and something happens.”
Glamping with the girls: Brenda Puckett
For Brenda Puckett, a weekend in her RV is her opportunity to get away from the weekday hustle of real estate.
“I want something to look forward to, where I’m unplugged, which is kind of a joke,” Puckett says, since modern campsites have Wi-Fi. “I just at least want to be away.”
The agent with Keller Williams Realty camped as a kid, but had not done much of it her adult life until about three years ago when she and her husband, Jeff, decided to purchase a 34-foot travel trailer. They camped across the region and, while staying at Natural Falls State Park near the Oklahoma/Arkansas border, happened upon Sisters on the Fly, a national outdoor adventure group for women.
“My husband said, ‘These are your people,’” she recalls. The couple was introduced to the sisterhood, which arranges SOTF campouts across the country.
Hosts organize campouts with planned activities like antiquing, line-dancing, Dutch oven cooking classes and more. Brenda was sold, and it gave her husband the “out” he had been looking for. “He wasn’t into it,” she says of the RV life.
So she joined the group and has attended multiple SOTF campouts. She also has taken friends and family to RV across the state.
Despite being an RV owner for such a short time, Brenda is already on her third camper. “I never understood why people turned them over so quickly,” she says. “I thought it was because they thought, ‘I hate camping.’” The truth, according to her, is that everyone is either upsizing or downsizing for the perfect fit.
For now, she has settled on a silver and green Fleetwood Jamboree. “This one is light and bright with light-colored cabinetry,” she says. “It’s so shiny and beautiful.”
It has all the modern amenities — a full bathroom, an entertainment center, a kitchen with a stove and convection microwave oven, a queen-size bed in back with a pull-out bed in the main living area.
A weekend away in her RV means the chance to read a magazine, sip some adult beverages, take a hike, swim or kayak. “For me, I want to relax, but I want to relax in luxury,” she says.
5 Tips for the Camper Curious
As more venture into the outdoors with their RVs, tents and backpacks, here are some tips and tricks of the trade from our profile subjects.
1. Get an expert opinion on your second-hand camper
When purchasing a used RV, Brenda Puckett — who is on her third — suggests taking someone who is knowledgeable about RVs, or have a mechanic give it a once-over.
The same goes for vintage campers. A lot of people buying and fixing up vintage models are purchasing them from someone who had them sitting in a field for 40 years, according to Jimmy Hall, who owns two 1960s campers. “Most of the time, people don’t know what they’re getting when they’re this old.” And, get clean titles, he emphasizes.
2. Value structural soundness over aesthetic appeal
Once you’ve found something you like, the “cuteness factor” should not determine the purchase. Just because it’s cute doesn’t mean it’s a sound structure. Hall says to check the flooring, the wood around the windows and make sure the electricity works. “Ask (the seller) to hook it up and pull it and make sure it pulls straight,” he adds.
3. Try before you buy — it's a big investment!
And if it’s your first foray into the motorhome world, Puckett says “it might be nice to get on outdoorsy.com — give it a whirl — and then you can try different ones before you’re committed.” Sites such as outdoorsy.com allow individuals to rent different models.
4. Take your first trip somewhere nearby
Once you’ve made your purchase, Stephanie Pierce, president of Dave’s Claremore RV, suggests taking a maiden voyage close to home. “There are inevitably things you forgot to pack or didn’t know that you would need,” she says. “This gives you a chance to discover all of that and do it right the next time.
“It will also get you comfortable using the RV before you’re hundreds of miles away from home — and the dealership you trust — to help you figure things out in a pinch.”
5. Think outside the box (and the RV)
Just like any home, an RV’s kitchen can get hot easily in the summer months. Puckett sets up a Crock-Pot and toaster oven on a picnic table outside the vehicle to help keep her camper cool.