With Some Campgrounds Still Closed and the Coronavirus Spreading, I Went Camping in the Only Place That Was a Safe Bet—My Backyard

Plot the perfect backyard Xscape.

Camping, as we know it, has changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. A number of popular campgrounds across the state remain closed, trailheads are emblazoned with warning signs, and rangers on patrol keep a watchful eye to make sure bodies maintain the proper 6 feet of distance.

Reimagining the way we camp has posed a challenge for Nic Parrish, owner of Portland gear rental startup Xscape Pod (305 SE Madison St., 971-599-6025, xscapepod.com). His company outfits locals and visitors alike with equipment for outdoor adventures, but the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has forced him to adapt. Xscape Pod's latest offering, the Patio Pod, contains everything you need for an overnight stay under the stars, with a caveat—it is designed for your own backyard.

I reached out to Parrish in hopes of giving the Patio Pod a try. Next thing I knew, it was waiting at my doorstep.

Contained in a heavy-duty ice chest were more supplies than I'd taken on some camping trips in the actual woods, ensuring my backyard stay would be more than comfortable, and it was all stowed so neatly, it would have brought Marie Kondo to tears. I cleared space in the yard and began to unpack the foldable chairs, a tent, sleeping bags and pads, a hammock and cookware. The brands were some of the most well-regarded in their field, including Big Agnes, Helinox, MSR and Coleman, so digging into the kit would make any outdoor recreationalist as happy as a kid opening presents on Christmas morning.

Once everything was laid out of the ground, setting up camp was a breeze. If you can pitch a tent, you can set up the entire Patio Pod alone without breaking a sweat. Even though a stainless steel pot and recycled bamboo plates and utensils were provided, I elected to use what I had in my kitchen, if only because it was already there.

It was soon time for dinner when the neighbors dropped in for an impromptu backyard beer. I could sense their admiration for the backyard setup as I nursed an ice-cold, low-cal Deschutes Pilsner. I've always been a camping dirtbag at heart, so I threw together a pot of mac and cheese and prepared a dessert using the Patio Pod's sweetest offering: a s'mores kit courtesy of Portland's gourmet purveyor of the campfire treat, 1927 S'mores Company.

The sun was soon replaced by the moon, and so I drifted off as the hum of traffic and passing sirens filled the tent. My slumber was interrupted once during the night by the sound of scratching just beyond my sleeping quarters, but I knew the biggest animal in my neighborhood had to be raccoons with a hankering for artisanal bread.

Morning came sooner than expected, and I crawled out of the tent feeling well-rested as my roommates peered from the back door window. Stumbling onto the lawn, I made my way inside to fix breakfast and shower. The hardest part was packing everything back into the cooler just as I'd found it.

Tips on DIY Camping at Home

Interested in turning your yard into a campground without spending a lot of money on supplies? Here's what you'll need:

Tent: You may not need a tent for warmth in the midst of a Portland summer, but it's a reassuring barrier between you and the neighborhood's roaming pack of hungry raccoons.

Blankets: No sleeping bag? No problem. Gather your favorite blankets from the house to create a cozy bed.

Food: Round up supplies from the kitchen, or be a hero and order takeout from your favorite local restaurant.

Lighting: Keep a flashlight or headlamp in your tent to avoid stumbling through the dark when you inevitably wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

Insect repellent: Believe it or not, mosquitos are definitely buzzing in the city, and they're definitely interested in you. Throw on some bug spray to keep them at bay.

Atmosphere: Get into the camping frame of mind with a backyard campfire to warm your feet, roast marshmallows, and burn pages of your rambling coronavirus quarantine diary.

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