Like college students on a camping trip, the Montgomery County volunteers climbed into a van Friday night and set off on the three-hour drive to Pottsville, Pa., looking for laughs and the chance to campaign for Jimmy Carter.

They spent two hours Saturday walking up and down the streets of the old mining town, knocking on doors, distributing campaign literature and trying to affect, if even minutely, the outcome of Tuesday's presidential primary.

Then, their work done, they returned to what seemed to be the real business at hand: drinking in the local bar, and playing pinball and pool.

There was Gerry Evans, 24, special assistant to Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist. Evans said he organized the group because Gilchrist endorsed Carter and because an official at the Democratic National Committee asked him to campaign for Carter in Pennsylvania.

There was Steve Cannon, 26, a childhood friend of Evans' and a county worker who decided to campaign because he "wanted the experience of what this whole campaign process was like."

There was Don Gilchrist, the county executive's 17 year-old son, who went along because "It's fun partying with Gerry (Evans). If Gerry couldn't go, I wouldn't go."

And there was Michele Corrado, a sophomore at the University of Maryland, who "had a good time last time" campaigning for Carter in New York, and wanted to repeat the experience.

Like two of the others, Corrado was a bit confused about why she was supporting Carter. "I'm voting for him because Gerry told me how good he was and from talking to people and stuff about all the reasons for voting for Carter."

"What reasons?" asked a bystander.

Corrado laughed. "I don't know. I'll have to think about that."

As far as the Carter campaign organizers were concerned, the volunteers' grasp of the issues -- or lack of it -- was unimportant.

"If anyone wants to rap, don't get into a discussion with them," said Pat McLane, campaign coordinator for Carter-Mondale in Pennsylvania. "Just say 'Hello, I'm working for the president.'"

McLane said it would be "too time-consuming" to speak to residents about Carter's stands. He said he asked the group to canvass in Pottsville, a city of 20,000 second and third generation Irish, Poles and Greeks, because it is a Democratic city in a Republican county.

As the group walked along the streets of Pottsville, Evans rang the doorbell of the white clapboard house and waited. Finally, a white-haired man opened the door.

"I'm working for the Carter-Mondale committee and I'd appreciate it if you'd read this," said Evans, handing him a green and white flyer with Carter and Mondale's picture on the front and an explanation of Carter's stands on the back.

"Kennedy is my man," said the man, in an Irish brogue.

"Yes, sir," said Evans, as he walked away.

Evans later walked across the lawn of a two-story house, where an elderly man was weeding out green onions that sprouted among the grass.

Evans handed him the campaign flyer and asked him to remember Carter during the Tuesday primary.

"Well, I like him," said the man, Bill Wallace, 62. "I think he's a sincere man and we're a lot better off with him than with that big-mouth Kennedy."

Wallace asked Evans where he was from.

"Montgomery County," Evans replied.

"Oh, the southeastern part of the state," Wallace said.

"No, Montgomery County, Maryland," Evans said.

"Oh," Wallace said, looking puzzled as Evans walked away.