I need to start off by saying I am not a professional camper. I am merely a city girl who likes the great outdoors. I try to camp once or twice a year. These are just a few tips I think may be helpful for someone who is about to embark on their first camping adventure.
Most important thing is to make sure the tent you buy is actually waterproof. I learned this lesson the hard way while traveling cross-country with my younger sister back in 2002. Neither one of us had camped on our own before so we bought what we thought we needed – a two-person tent. Well it turns out not all tents are created equal. And two-person tent means one-person curled into a ball tent. Our heads and feet touched the sides of the tent and of course the night we camped, there was a thunderstorm. We ended up sleeping in the car! Also, always pack a tarp to put under your tent – inevitably you will place your tent on a sharp rock and will be sleeping on a puddle. On that note, remember to bring duct tape. Fixing a hole in your tent is just one of its many uses!
Next unless you have a super early bird in your group who is going to wake up early and start a big fire, don’t count on anything but cereal or fruit for breakfast. Eggs take way longer to cook than you think in the great outdoors. If you have a few hours to kill in the morning, go for it; otherwise, just stick to the easy things. Another tip about food – you might want to have one person buy all the food and split the cost so you can be sure you will have everything you need. One of the first times I camped, we split the food duties and someone forgot marshmallows. Now, since camping without marshmallows is illegal, we had to leave the campsite to drive 30 minutes to find some – not fun. That year we also chose a campground that didn’t allow alcohol; now we aren’t drunks :::cough cough::: but we also don’t want to have to hide the fact that we like to have a few beers around a campfire. Be sure to check all the rules before you book a site – alcohol, quiet hours, bathroom facilities, pets allowed, how many tents and cars allowed per site, etc. Also when booking a site, take into consideration how far you are from the bathroom. You don’t want to be the site right next to the bathroom, but you probably don’t want to be too far from it either. You also want to make sure your site isn’t the easiest pathway to the bathroom – otherwise, you will have people traipsing through your site all day and night.
Don’t worry if you aren’t an expert camper the first time you try it. The first time I ever camped was with a few coworkers of mine. We used all of their equipment so I just had to bring me! We camped for 5 days in a town called Roscoe in upstate New York. One night it rained so hard and it was so cold that I went to sleep in my car. The problem with that was that I didn’t know how to shut off my alarm and it was very sensitive, so every time I moved or bumped into something, I set the alarm off! As you could imagine, other campers were not very happy with me. I was not cut out for camping back then. I thought the bathrooms were gross so I showered in the river (the bathrooms were actually fine) and I couldn’t poop the entire time because there were always people in the bathroom! (TMI? Lol) Boy how times have changed! Now I feel like I’m a pro – at car camping anyway. As you can see from my Camping Checklist (editable Word *.doc file), I bring way too much stuff with me, but I’m always prepared. I still only camp where there are flush toilets but I can pee in the woods if need be. 🙂 I also can now walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night without company. Aww, I’m so grown up!
I love camping – the quiet, the view of the stars, sitting by the fire, s’mores, under and overcooked food, hiking a new spot, etc. It is so great to be able to get away from it all – even if sometimes I camp in spots where my cell phone doesn’t work and I get a bit antsy. 🙂
I hope to soon post reviews of the campsites I’ve stayed at over the years….stay tuned!