Camping is a great way to unwind after a busy week of driving to work, keeping the kids entertained, or simply life in general. Camping is a wonderful get-a-way for several reasons; you will receive that much needed vitamin D from the sunshine, you can bring your pets, it’s decent exercise, and if you already have a few camping essentials, it will be the cheapest adventure at your disposal!
First things first, choose a location to camp at. If you’re a risk taker and want to set up camp in the back-country, there may be fewer rules to adhere to. Otherwise, if you pick a popular camping destination, you will want to learn about the policies and rates in the area. Most designated camp-sites require reservations which can be made easily online or by phone. The rates depend on where you will be camping of course, but for the most part do not expect to be charged more than $15 to $20 dollars per night. Keep in mind that some sites operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. National and state parks have busy campgrounds and it is best to make reservations beforehand.
The next line of work is the packing and planning. Check the expected weather forecast for the days of your trip. The possibility of slight rain may be an inconvenience, but should not prohibit you from camping. If the forecast is predicting heavy rains, you might consider rescheduling. Notify the people around you about where you and your family (or friends) intend to camp in case of an emergency. It is not advisable to camp alone since the wilderness presents many dangers. If you are planning on being away for longer than several days in a remote area, learn how to operate a hand-held radio and bring it with you.
Everyone is of a different feather, and some people are minimalist campers while others like to ‘rough it smoothly.’ It’s up to you to decide what to bring, but here are a few good camping essentials; a tent with a rain cover (even if the skies look clear, rainstorms during the night are not uncommon), sleeping bags, blow-up mattress or mattress pad, charcoal and lighter fluid or propane-grill (although, most sites permit camp-fires), cooking utensils, jug of water, rope, baby-wipes or towels, bug repellent, a lighter or matches, trash bags, warm clothes (wear something you wouldn’t mind ruining or dirtying), flashlights, and supplies for your pet.
If you will be staying in an area occupied by wildlife such as bears or raccoons, you will need to put anything that has a scent in a bag and hang it at least ten feet in the air using the rope. Left-over food, containers, tooth-paste, deodorant, and recently-worn clothes will have a scent that can attract unpleasant furry visitors. Bears have always been a camper’s nightmare, but encounters can be deterred by using smart camping techniques such as hanging scented items and food at least 300 ft. from the tents.
If you are camping in a wooded area, finding fire-wood should be an easy task but frequently visited campgrounds may be in short supply. If possible, bring a few logs (which can be bought at hardware stores and even some grocery stores), and kindling. A great trick to starting a fire is to use dryer-lint. Keep your old dryer-lint in a paper bag and bring this with you to ignite your camp-fires. Who knew the filthy stuff had a use? Also, cotton-balls soaked in Vaseline work well for getting that fire going.
If it looks like you will be camping in cold weather, then the best way to keep yourself insulated is to elevate your sleeping bag off from the ground by padding the base of the tent with blankets or an inflatable mattress. Bring an old comforter and keep this one over the sleeping bags – you know how it is with blankets, the more the merrier!
Because you will be living in an unfamiliar area with no running water for a few days, it is extremely important to keep you and your companions hydrated. If you have a water-filter designed for streams or rivers bring it. If not, bring at least a gallon per two people for every day that you are away. A trick to enjoying your camping experience will be the ability to keep yourself clean amongst the wilderness and having water around allows you to rinse off and brush your teeth before you snuggle into your sleeping bag. If you will be camping at high elevations, dehydration will set in at a quicker rate and therefore you should be more aware of your water intake.
To keep your camping trip stress-free and relaxing, bring plenty of food. Nobody likes hiking or pitching a tent with a growling stomach. Unless you have the time to pack elaborate meals, camping food has an accepted lower quality. Hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, chocolate milk, watermelon, popcorn and cliff bars have all earned their rank among camping foods. Bring whatever you and your friends enjoy the most and remember to buy fresh ice to keep meats and dairy chilled.
Also, think twice about running through the woods in your bare-feet. It does sound refreshing, but be keenly aware that no matter where you are at, every environment has it’s thorns. Poison ivy, sumac, briers, and oak are common irritants found throughout North America. Many insects such as wasps, spiders, stink-bugs, and chiggers can turn an otherwise pleasant camping experience into a bad time. Be intelligent about your surroundings. Wear long pants and high socks to protect yourself from skin-irritating plants.
Aside from roasting sausages and s’mores over a roaring fire, what else is there to do on a camping trip? Depending on where you are at, you may have access to fishing, hunting, hiking, bike trails, visitor centers, horse-back riding, and even interesting towns to explore. Do your research before leaving the confines of your home to see what attractions may be nearby to your camp-site. A good word of advice – the better the company you bring, the better the camping trip will be!
Enjoy yourself during your camping trip. Bring that book you have always wanted to read, or a kayak to paddle around in if there is a lake. Explore nature and see what surprises it holds in store for you. Bring a bird or plant book and see what specimens you can identify in the wild. You might just learn something new about the outdoors!