Unless you grew up camping, learning about RV ownership doesn’t come naturally. In addition, in a traditionally male-dominated industry, this is especially relevant for female campers.
Janine Pettit of Girl Camper is changing that one seminar at a time. Pettit runs the Camper College events at various RV dealerships to help “girl campers” know more about what is involved in owning, operating and towing a travel trailer.
Pettit runs the site GirlCamper.com as well as a podcast that features RV news and interviews. She also writes a column for the GoRVing blog. Pettit was kind to answer a few questions for DoItYourselfRV on what to expect from her classes and who exactly a “girl camper” is.
How would you describe Girl Camper?
I started Girl Camper as a means of encouraging women who wanted to participate in the Girl Camping world. I was looking for a way to describe the phenomenon of all the groups I was seeing but didn’t want to use the word “glamping”.
I’m not really a glamper myself. GoRVing had approached me and asked me to write a blog for them about the glamping movement, but I requested we call it “Girl Camping” because I wanted the solo woman with a pup tent and kayak to be served by it as well as the woman with a large Class A motorhome and everyone in-between. I wanted to speak for all women who camp.
How would you describe a girl camper?
A “girl camper” is a woman who wants to “go places and do things”. She usually has the gift of wanderlust and a willing spirit. She’s someone willing to challenge herself and overcome the fears that might exist when trying something completely new.
What do you want to provide for female campers and why?
I want to help any woman who is watching the adventure taking place with the groups like Sisters on the Fly find an entry point into that world. I do that in my podcast, with speaking engagements, and through my Go RVing blog.
Why? I grew up in a very can-do family. I drove my parent’s motorhome from New Jersey to Illinois when I was 20 years old. I did not have any fear because I could “hear” my dad saying, “Slow and steady…you’ve got this.”
I realized after I joined the Sisters on the Fly camping group in 2005 that not everyone had that. I wanted to help women understand that they have what it takes to own, operate and tow their own travel trailers. I knew that I could give them that encouragement.
What do you find that women want to learn about their own RVs, trailers, etc.?
During my presentation, I find that most women have a fear of towing and I always tell them two things: 1) Towing is a skill set and once you learn the principles you can start slowly in your neighborhood and build up your skill and confidence. 2) It can’t be that dangerous or U-Haul wouldn’t give everyone who walks in the door with a valid drivers license a trailer to tow away with no other instruction than a 10-minute video.
I also find that in the Camper College seminars I host with RV dealers that women are really keen to learn about the hitch. They have a fear that the trailer will fall off somehow.
Once they see the mechanisms and put it on and off themselves, their fear is greatly reduced. I can see the relief in their faces and excitement building. They begin to feel that they can do this camping and towing thing.
What do women ask about most during your seminars?
After the towing and trailer things have been put to rest they really want to know what a girl camping weekend is like. Where do we go? What do we do? The answer is: whatever you want!
That’s not something most women get to do very often. Some women are very active and hike and kayak, others read, rest, craft, go antiquing. The idea of a weekend in which you can indulge yourself in guilty pleasures is very appealing.
Tell us about Camper College? What goes on during each event?
It’s an event designed to demystify trailer ownership and give women the confidence to make the right trailer purchase for them. Learning how the trailer works, where it plugs in, what greywater and black water tanks are, how to chock the wheels and level it—all these things help women make informed choices.
What do you go camping in and what three things have you learned while camping?
I have a 1966 Go Tag Along trailer that I love, but I really wanted to travel further from home without worrying about a vintage trailer breaking down on me.
I kept my vintage trailer, the Lake House, but I bought a 2017 Riverside Retro 176S (The St George—named after my dad) this year. I love having hot water on demand and a potty.
I’ve learned these three things:
- People who camp are really kind and generous people. I love meeting people and hearing their stories. I don’t think you connect with people in that same way on resort-style vacations.
- I’ve learned that I prefer back roads, small towns, state parks, and small family-owned campgrounds. I like to camp in the off-season and do the tourist sites without the large crowds.
- I’ve learned to be quiet and not have to be doing something productive at every moment when I’m camping. That’s really hard for me because productivity has always been how I’ve justified relaxation. Camping is a little bit of productivity to get set up but then a lot of leisure. I knit a lot around the fire to keep from feeling too slothful!! I love a short hike, a great dinner, decorating the picnic table with found treasures and watching the fire until the very last ember dies off. My husband has usually been asleep for two hours by then but I can’t drag myself away. That’s a good camping day to me!
What camping locations are on your bucket list?
The Northern Plains is next on my list. I have read so many books on the Oregon Trail and really want to see those prairies this summer. We have several women who are planning a four to six week trip.
We plan to see Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Devil’s Tower National Monument, and Yellowstone National Park, and then home through a more southern route. Planning it has been fun!