Girl Power for Girl Campers
With the help of The Sisters, Janine rediscovered her love for the outdoors.
Janine Pettit is a girl camper. A flame from a campfire sparked her love of camping when she was a young girl on an outing with her parents and six siblings. Janine grew up believing that the camping life was the life for her, until she learned that her loving husband was not a fan of the RV lifestyle. “I assumed that we would raise our kids camping, but he just didn’t like it at all,” she said.
“My favourite family vacation was when my parents took us from Chicago all the way to Prince Edward Island,” Janine said. “I still have the souvenir—a cup and saucer—that I bought in an antique shop there.” Janine recreated this trip for her own family years later with a neighbour’s borrowed trailer. “We stayed in the exact same campground, and we went to Saint Anne’s at Prince Edward Island for the lobster dinner in the church basement—exactly where my parents took us.” Despite Janine’s attempt to share the campfire connection with her husband and kids, the family opted for a beach house instead of a travel trailer.
When she was comfortably settled as a mother and wife of non-campers, Janine saw an advertorial about Sisters on the Fly in Country Living magazine. “I showed the article to my husband and he said ‘I want you to join this group immediately.’ He was glad to be off the hook,” said Janine.
The Sisters on the Fly are a girl camping group that gathers across North America to explore the RV lifestyle outside of its assumed typical boundaries: no men allowed on these outdoor excursions. The Sisters are among many similar groups that urge women to adventure on their own—or at least adventure with likeminded, nature-loving women. The travels include a lot of hiking, kayaking, horsemanship, and stories around the campfire. The women also enjoy antiquing and junking in the areas they visit, so Janine now has plenty of opportunity to build her collection of souvenirs that she started as a young girl.
With the help of The Sisters, Janine rediscovered her love for the outdoors. She attended a handful of organized camping trips each year, and became a wrangler for new sisters around New Jersey.
From Sisters on the Fly, Janine was approached to host her own blog and podcast: Girl Camper. Girl Camper is Janine’s niche to inspire women to get outdoors, in any way feasible for them. “My podcast is all about how to become a girl camper,” she said. “A large part of my audience on the podcast is women who want to become girl campers. They want to join, but they don’t have a starting point.” The key here is to not confuse girl campers with glamping. “I use the term girl camper to encompass every type of woman who camps,” Janine said. “Over the years, I have seen many different styles of camping.” However, these girl campers still know how to get down and dirty, including towing and operating their own big rigs.
The general belief is that the RV lifestyle is for young families with children, or coupled-up snowbirds. “My goal is to help women learn that the RV lifestyle is for everybody,” Janine said. “I want women to know that they can own, operate, and tow a travel trailer on their own.”
Janine actually owns two trailers. The first is for shorter camping trips, within three hours of her home: a restored 1966 Go Tag-A-Long. The second is equipped for longer camping trips, including more square footage and a full-sized bathroom: a 2017 Riverside Retro. The Riverside Retro is a new model featuring interior favourites from vintage trailers.
Janine’s travels take her all around the eastern coast of the United States, with a few trips up into Eastern Canada as a young girl camper. “I absolutely love to camp in West Virginia,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful state—it’s called the Rocky Mountains of the east coast. It’s such an underrated place—like a secret.” New England, Upstate New York, Western Massachusetts, and the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee are also high on Janine’s list.
Whether you follow in Janine’s footsteps to join a girl camping group, or head out to the wilderness on your own, Janine wants women to know that they are capable. “It’s about letting women know that you don’t need a man in your life to do this.” Plenty of girl campers do have men in their lives—men that don’t want to camp. Being a girl camper means taking responsibility for your adventures, and not letting anything hold you back from exploring.
As a Girl Camper ambassador, Janine Pettit attends and speaks at Camper College events across the United States. Camper College is usually hosted by RV sales facilities, and invites women to join the RV lifestyle without men. The goal of these events is to teach women exactly how to use the equipment typically attached to a travel trailer, as well as the basics of hitching and towing their own.