There are few rites of passage as memorable as your first camping trip. People bond while cooking coffee, hot dogs, or marshmallows over an open fire, tossing pebbles into a stream, and inhaling fragrant whiffs of pine. Camping can also make an ideal inexpensive vacation. And to me, nothing is more relaxing than an evening hanging out around camp. But if you are new to camping, the logistics can be quite daunting. What kind of gear do you need? What to eat? Where can I do it? How does an aspiring outdoorist tackle their first camping trip? Read on:
Tent – You probably want a larger one than you think. There’s no real reason to be cramped in a two-person backpacking tent if you don’t have to be. Massive tents with a separate zippered room for the kids exist that give everyone plenty of space. If you’ve got money to spend, spend it here first. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than an inadequate tent.
Sleeping gear – For camping out of your car, sleeping bags can be relatively inexpensive, especially if you’re going in warm weather. Sleeping pads can make all the difference in a good night’s sleep. Almost all experienced campers have a lightweight, packable inflatable pad to sleep on. Last, always bring a beanie for keeping that head warm on a cool night.
Around camp – Headlamps make your life easier and allow you illuminate something while using two hands. Lanterns add lighting and ambiance to your campsite. You’ll need somewhere to sit to enjoy that campfire so bring along a comfy chair. A camp stove can be easier and more efficient to cook on than a campfire. And a skillet, a pot, and basic dishes are all that’s needed to enjoy a camp meal. If you are not sure what to cook, there are dedicated camping recipes on several sites online from basic to ambitious for moving beyond roasting hot dogs. Finally, fire. Don’t forget a lighter and matches.
CAN YOU BORROW?
Do you know any campers? This isn’t a way of tapping your inner cheapskate. Instead, borrowing can help you decide what you want or need to spend money on and if you ultimately love camping. Most camping gear does not have a shelf life and if taken care of will last a long time. So, buying should be done with some degree of thought – buy what you need and upgrade over time.
If it’s your first time out, camp within driving distance to services. If you run out of food or ruin a meal, don’t be ashamed to drive into town for a bite. Otherwise, most state parks offer camping and some even allow you to reserve your campsite ahead of time. Additionally, you can camp almost anywhere in a national forest.
Finally, find an experienced friend or trusted gear shop to help. The right person will help you sort through what you need or don’t need, good local places to go, and other details not mentioned here. Bring a pad and paper and make notes during your trip on how to make it better next time. The best campers refine their gear from experience and keeping a list will help you pack next time. There’s no need to torture yourself. Find what will help you enjoy your outing and take it.
Getting into the great outdoor is probably easier than you think. Give it some thought, make a list of what you’ll need, load it up, and get out there. In the end, it’s about unplugging, having fun, relaxing, and soaking up God’s country.