I have been to AirVenture in Oshkosh one whole times- which makes me a veteran and an expert, so get ready for some super helpful advice, everybody! (HAHAHA)
If you’ve never been to Oshkosh, and like myself are the wife (or husband) of a
plane nerd aeronautics aficionado and have been wrangled into joining said spouse on a week long trip to LITERALLY DISNEY WORLD FOR AIRPLANE NERDS a lovely little town in east-central Wisconsin and would like to get an idea of what type of trip you’re in for and plan accordingly- well there are probably a whole bunch more helpful sites out there on the interwebs with that information. BUT! They won’t be nearly as fun and action packed as this one, so YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE!
By the way, for you regular readers out there- Hi! Allow me to introduce myself! I’m Julie, Michael’s wife, and I’ve hijacked his site. Shhh. Don’t say anything and maybe he won’t notice.
First off, let me explain a few things about me. I love camping, and I love sleeping outside. I know that not everyone feels like I do, and if that’s you, you’ll be happy to know that YES, you can bring your RV to Oshkosh. Or, if you prefer, you can sleep in a hotel. As I’m writing this post roughly 2 1/2 months out from Airventure 2018 (July 23-29), and if you haven’t already made those reservations… well you’re probably out of luck. (But don’t take my word for it! Give those hotels/ BnBs a call! Do it now! Stop procrastinating! Whuh-oh. Too late. You waited too long. Better luck next year!)
As for camping on site- you can and should pre-register. You can even camp out under your plane if you choose to fly in. As for us- we took advantage of the EAA chapter site option and joined a few other members in camping out on two 20′ x 30′ patches of grass. This worked very well for the four of us who picked this option. Honestly, though? Things might have gotten a wee bit tight if we’d added more people to the site. That might just be us. You tetris masters out there might be better at allocating space.
The other thing about me that may seem pretty contradictory, considering my love for camping, is that I’m a complete germaphobe. Oh, not in the clinical, OCD way. And not in a “I must avoid dirt!” way. (See: Love for outside things) I just like to wash my hands a couple dozen times a day. More, maybe, depending on whether or not I’ve seen another human in the past hour. DEFINITELY after touching something another human has touched. So, as you can see, totally not extreme at all. Most people don’t even notice!
More about my germ issues later.
If this is your first time to Oshkosh, your most pressing question is likely “what do I need to bring?” And let me answer that by assuring you that on our maiden trip last year, Michael and I brought everything we own.
Seriously. The other guys from our chapter were laughing at us.
“You filled your whole truck??”
“Excuse me, it’s an SUV, not a truck. We’re not nearly cool enough to own a truck.”
“THERE’S AN ENTIRE KITCHEN BACK HERE!”
“Hello! How else am I going to make coffee if I don’t have a camp-stove, a french press, fresh beans, a coffee grinder, a dozen jugs of filtered spring water, and fresh half-n-half to go with it?”
So we brought everything. And, SURPRISE! We didn’t need nearly as much as we thought we did. But we did find a few things that were surprisingly handy and I’d be happy to share with you what those things were and why they turned out to be so essential.
Listen, y’all. There were more than 11,600 camp-SITES at Airventure last year. More than half a million people came to the event, all told. I cannot even describe what this number actually looks like to you. This will not be a bucolic, quiet camping trip in the middle of a field. (except with airplanes.) And, yes, that might have been exactly what I was imagining before my trip last year. I was a mite-bit unprepared.
This isn’t to say that we didn’t sleep, or that it was uncomfortable. To the contrary, despite my general icky-vibe I get around lots of people, I was completely at ease. BUT! Thousands of campers all sleeping outside at the same time?
People, there will be snoring. And … uh… other noises.
I happen to know a couple- I WILL NOT NAME NAMES- whose campsite was a bit crowded and they ended up with their tent smooshed right up against a neighboring campsite whose neighbors also found themselves a bit over crowded. Their tents weren’t touching, but they were less than a foot away from each other.
The gentleman who slept in the adjacent tent was a night farter. A LOUD night farter. The first hour or two had the couple in near hysterical (but desperately trying to be silent) giggles as they listened to toot after toot from their poofer-neighbor. After a while, however, they remembered the earplugs they’d brought and very gratefully put them to use.
Guys. Bring earplugs. Also- as a favor to your neighbors, maybe take it easy on the beans and brats while in Wisconsin?
SIDE NOTE: If you are bothered by lights in the night and/or don’t want to get up with the sunrise (which is announced over the many loudspeakers with a man yodeling. You people think I’m making this crap up, I just know it.)- you might consider an eye-mask as well. I didn’t find it necessary, but I know that might be an issue for some folks.
This is one of those details at AirVenture that I was really impressed by- the EAA folks thought of the need for charging stations and had them sprinkled here and there throughout the grounds. That said, because I’m a big camera user, my battery drained fairly often throughout the day and I found myself in need of a charge more than usual. And of course, I didn’t really want to be tied to a charge station. I wanted to move! See all the things! And I wanted to charge my phone while I did it!
That’s where this charger came in handy. I could easily walk the grounds with my phone hooked up to this external battery. Usually I kept the battery in my day-pack and had a cord trailing out of it to my phone which I kept in my pocket in case of emergency photo opportunities.
The solar charger we used for charging while at the site, and for re-filling the battery pack.
Which brings me to…
Ladies, I know you like your purses, but for this event a daypack is so much more convenient. You can walk hands-free! You can carry more stuff! It’s easy to organize! Some of them even come with water bladders and convenient clip-on doo-hickeys for easy to attach items like bottles and camera straps.
Michael and I both had day packs and I can’t imagine doing Airventure without them. Everyone has their own personal bag preference, but here are a couple that we really liked.
For this item, I’m actually going to show you something that we didn’t bring last year. Last year we brought standard folding chairs that you see at kids’ ball games etc.
And these were fine and perfect for relaxing at our campsite. BUT. If you want to walk over to watch any of the airshows, or to make a visit to the Theater in the Woods, you’re going to want to have something a bit less cumbersome to carry with you. I recommend this– which Michael and I saw several people using last year.
We were super jealous. Easy to inflate, seats two, and super easy to carry around (fits in your pack!), this thing is just about perfect.
This year we’ll likely bring the same folding chairs for the site, but we’ll keep one of these inflatable thingies in one of our packs in case an unplanned sitting opportunity arises and we need a place to plonk our butts.
(Side note: There was one campsite that had one of these.
For some reason, I haven’t been able to convince Michael how obviously necessary an inflatable living room is. Oh, he had some convincing arguments, something about lung capacity, hyperventilating, and shared campsite space. WHATEVER DUDE. That’s what air compressors are for! SURELY WE HAVE THE ROOM FOR ONE OF THOSE.)
I should really stop here and explain the bathroom situation. Depending on where you’re camped, you could be pretty darn far from the showers. Quite a few people brought bikes to Oshkosh to move back and forth from their site and the rest of the grounds. We’re thinking about bringing a pair of bikes ourselves this year.
Obviously when you are walking back from the showers, you’re not going to want to wear your dirty clothes right after getting cleaned up. So you’re going to need a bag for carrying clean clothes and soap, a disposable bag for the dirty, likely a second disposable bag for shoes. And just in case you’ve never used a public shower, you’ll need to know that you need to bring shower shoes- AKA flip-flops– so that that your feet don’t touch the shower floor while washing.
This isn’t just my germaphobia talking- it’s common practice. Foot fungus is nasty, y’all. If you don’t pack the flippy-floppies, you’d best pack some fast-actin’-tinactin.
My shower package looked a bit like this. One of these bags for everything clean:
Inside that, one gallon sized ziplock freezer bag for soap, shampoo, etc. This keeps the liquid stuff from accidentally leaking onto your other stuff.
A disposable grocery bag for flip-flops.
A disposable grocery bag for dirty clothes. Then I dumped the dirty stuff into a large garbage bag/ hamper bag that we designated for that purpose back at the site.
This worked just great for me, but I saw a lot of folks with different set-ups. If you have a solution that worked great for you, let me know in the comments!
I INTERRUPT THIS POST FOR A QUICK NOTE ABOUT SHOWERS AND BATHROOMS
Ok, I’ll admit that this was one thing that really had me worried before we left last year. But I really needn’t have been so concerned- EAA has you covered, y’all. The shower stalls are roomy enough for a single person. They are not timed- you don’t need quarters for 2 minute blocks of water usage. They have privacy curtains. There are benches outside the stalls. The water pressure is strong and steady and the water is nice and warm. The shower heads appeared to be kitchen sink hoses- oddly, they work very well.
Showers are busiest in the evenings. Which makes sense, after all, who wants to climb into a clean sleeping bag with the dust and the sweat of the day still clinging to you? But if you pay attention, you can slip in to wash up during less popular times. Say, around dinner time or during an air-show, if you prefer.
Here’s the thing- (guys, you might want to close your eyes for this section of the blog post)
Ladies, if you find yourself camping out in Oshkosh during THAT time of the month, you might want to take note that not all of the bath houses have toilets in addition to shower stalls. At least one of the big bath houses ONLY had shower stalls. This can be… problematic. All I can say is you may want to plan accordingly, maybe walk the extra steps over to the other bath house.
In addition, if you have to use the restroom at night for that same monthly purpose, you might note that the closest bathroom to you may be a porta-john (otherwise known as a water-slide to Hades). These are standard johns without, of course, a sink for washing up afterwards. (I KNOW. I TOO AM HORRIFIED.)
I’m not going to lie. Last year I used the EAA app to map out every single bathroom on the grounds, and I made note of which ones had sinks and which were temporary in nature. Every one that I entered was perfectly sterile. (There must be an army of volunteers cleaning these things several times a day. By the way, did you know this event is staffed entirely by volunteers? Yep.)
Other bathrooms were convenient, but made my inner 12 year old squeal “EWW! COOTIES!” at the very sight of them. Not because they weren’t clean- I’m sure they were- but because something about their temporary-ness whispered to me that this feature made them similar to porta-johns in nature, and they were therefore NOT TO BE TRUSTED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
I’M JUST GONNA HOLD MY PEE FOR THE PERMANENT POTTIES UP THATAWAY.
A perfectly reasonable response.
Ok, fellas, you can open your eyes now.
This seems like a “duh” thing to me- but you would not BELIEVE the number of people I saw with miserable looking sunburns last year. It also might be a good time to note that it’s not enough to bring the sunblock, YOU ALSO HAVE TO PUT IT ON.
(OK, yes, that might have been me that forgot to put the sunblock on. I WAS DISTRACTED BY THE SHINY THINGS. You just hush, you.)
Last year the weather was perfect and we were only rained on once, briefly, during the early part of the week. But I have heard tales from some of the Oshkosh pros about years past when it was down-right soggy on the grounds. They called those years “Sloshkosh.” But even if the weather is perfect two years in a row? We found the umbrellas came in very handy during times when we were sitting down and distinctly lacking in shade. Wisconsin can be toasty, when she wants to.
AND THAT’S IT!
“But Julie! This can’t be the end of your list! What about the kitchen you packed in the back of your SUV?”
Well, no, this is not a complete list of everything we’re taking. I figure you can probably work out the other necessary items for yourself.
(OMG, DON’T FORGET YOUR PAJAMAS.)
As for our kitchen set up? Ok, fine.
I have been reliably informed that my addiction to hoity-toity fresh morning coffee is verging on the unreasonable. Particularly while camping. THIS IS ME NOT CARING. I get fresh coffee! Everyone else gets a Julie who functions! FUNCTIONING JULIES ARE THE BEST JULIES.
And besides, there were several other campers (TOTALLY NOT NAMING NAMES) who found the convenience of a nearby camp stove pretty darn… uh… convenient. And we shared.
I will say that of the things that we brought last year that we decided we definitely won’t be bringing this year- a giant cooler and cooking supplies tops the list. (Small to medium sized cooler- PERFECT. Yes, bring it. Leave the giant one at home.) Yea, we bought eggs and other breakfast supplies. And we brought a frying pan. We even used it one morning. Mostly because we brought the thing and felt weird about having a something with us that we weren’t going to use.
But the thing is? There’s no place to wash dishes or pots and pans. What worked best for us, breakfast wise, was plain old peanut butter and jelly on paper plates. The one butter knife was easily cleaned with wet wipes. (which, yes, absolutely bring those too.)
And that’s definitely the end of our “Essentials” list! But, like we said, we’re pretty new to this. If you’ve been to Oshkosh and have some essentials of your own- or some tips to making the week a great one, drop us a line or let us know what you think in the comments below!
“BUT! BUT WAIT! What if I’m not an airplane nerd, and I’ve never been to AirVenture before! WHATEVER WILL I DO WHILE I’M THERE!?”
I’m so glad you asked!
I’ll address that next week when I next sneak back onto Michael’s site. Visit this post next!