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The Road to the Great Smoky Mountains

By: Jordan Walker, Guest column


Eight days. 1,700 miles. Six states. One Campinawe.

The destination? The Great Smoky Mountains, nestled in the heart of Appalachia.

Usually, my husband and I are strict tent campers because we like the adventure of living minimally to fully experience nature, especially when we’re visiting our National Parks. This trip, however, we knew that our long days would involve steep, technical hikes and a lot of exploring to cover as much as we possibly could in a relatively short time. With that, we decided to ditch the tent and rent the Campinawe through Van Life KC. I’m glad we did.

The Campinawe made it easy for us to hop campsites frequently, starting with our first night at the Land Between the Lakes National Forest in Kentucky and ending our trip by boondocking in the Mark Twain National Forest in southern Missouri.

In the Smoky Mountains, we enjoyed three of the most popular spots for camping, Elkmont, Smokemont, and Cades Cove. Because we didn’t need to worry about electric hookups due to the fully charged Renogy® power bank on board, we chose to park in the generator-free areas so that we could best enjoy wildlife and tree-covered canopies. This offered us great opportunities for bird watching, to view the first of the fireflies arriving, and still feel like we were living our best tent camping life.

Each of the campsites offers different sights to see and we loved that we could live spontaneously each day to check out the park because we weren’t wasting time setting up camp. We’re no experts at backing up a camper - but our best time for set-up was around 15 minutes to park, level and chock. Not bad for newbies.

Most campsites in our experience offered great tree coverage, but I was still worried that with the uncharacteristic 90-degree weather we would feel stuffy at night. That wasn’t the case at all. We were able to use the camping fan each night to keep air flowing with open windows, including the front cargo hatch that we screened in to keep bugs out. Not once did we need to replace batteries or recharge the Renogy.

Now, for those who need to feel super clean, you should know that the Smokies do not have showers anywhere in the park and it’s a huge no-no to use shower soaps near the crisp streams. Luckily, there is a privacy tent and battery-operated water system with a shower head that we could use for a quick scrub. I should note that to keep things sustainable in the parks, we’d recommend using biodegradable Campsuds for dishwashing and personal cleanup.

For some, a road trip means having all the comforts of home with you like a bathroom and full kitchenette. For my husband and I, we don’t need those kinds of amenities and frankly, cleaning an RV toilet sounds like a nightmare I’m not willing to sign up for. Plus, cooking in the open air gave us more time to take in the views, listen to the streams nearby and chat with our neighbors.

The Campinawe proved to be the perfect companion for our adventure to the Great Smoky Mountains and we can’t wait to get back on the road again.

Jordan Walker is an outdoor enthusiast and marketing strategist for Campinawe. When she’s not in the office, she and her husband can be found canoeing in the Ozarks, hiking in Colorado, mountain biking, and camping as many weekends as they can in Kansas’ state parks. Campinawe did not pay for this review.

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